Following months of lockdown in Kashmir, the state is once again in the throes of intense violence. The cycle of death and injuries continues unabated in the Valley as at least five people were killed, including three militants and two civilians, and around 30 were wounded by bullets or pellets fired by security forces on Thursday.
The rising toll of casualties this year is alarming and has the potential to spark another summer of death, injuries and shutdowns.
A 15-year-old teenager, Amir Wani, died when he was hit by a "stray bullet" in the neck, according to the police. His relatives, however, said that he was killed by the forces deployed to quell the protesters throwing stones on its personnel. The forces were fighting militants holed up in a house in Padgampora village of Pulwama when the protesters attacked them.
Another boy, Jalaluddin, died due to "cardiac arrest" while being chased by the forces. Eyewitness accounts, however, said that he died of asphyxiation, caused by the smoke shells lobbed by the forces on demonstrators. There has been no official word on the cause of his death.
Two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants, Jehangir Ganai and Mohammad Shafi, both residents of Pulwama, were also killed in an encounter with the forces. Shafi's family was called by the police, to persuade him to surrender, before he was killed. Shafi's brother, a LeT militant, was killed last year in another encounter with the forces.
Following the news of Amir's death, a civilian, clashes spread throughout the district, in which at least 30 youth were injured. Nine of the protesters were hit by bullets. Meanwhile, battling the protesters, nine forces' personnel were also injured.
Some of the injured protesters were treated in medical facilities in Kakapora and Awantipora, however, those injured in their eyes by bullets and pellets were shifted to hospitals in Srinagar, for advance treatment. A huge influx of people flocking to support the injured caused scenes of mayhem at the hospitals, with anti-India and pro-freedom slogans being raised.
Another militant, Mushtaq Ahmad Seer, was killed in a brief shootout when the cab he was travelling in was stopped by forces in Bandipora district on Thursday evening. His funeral was attended by thousands of people belonging to several villages, amid snowfall and rain. An army Major was also wounded in the shootout.
Several protesters were injured by pellets fired by forces on the demonstrators. Though their exact numbers couldn't be verified, it is known that three boys were hit in both eyes and two in one eye. All of them were treated in Srinagar's SMHS hospital. The conditions of two people hit by bullets were said to be "critical", according to hospital authorities in Srinagar.
Thousands of people thronged to the native villages of the slain civilians and militants, to attend their funerals. A shutdown is being observed in Kashmir in protest of the killings. Hurriyat (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was placed under house arrest. Umar had condemned the security forces for killing Amir. He had said that the forces had translated Army Chief Bipin Rawat's words into actions, by killing Amir.
The authorities disallowed the congregational prayers at Jamia Masjid on Friday, which is situated in the old quarter of Srinagar city. Prayers and violent protests are a norm in the area near the mosque. Roads leading to the mosque were sealed and the gates were locked by forces. Reports of clashes between protesters and police were also reported from Sopore, where police had to use teargas shells to disperse the protesters. Train services remained suspended for the second consecutive day in Kashmir.
General Rawat had warned demonstrators against disrupting the forces' encounters on militants by throwing stones. Since his warning, the protests by civilians during gunfights have only escalated.
Kashmir has been on the boil since the turn of the year. Over two dozen militants have been killed by forces. Around 10 civilians were also killed by the forces' firing. The warnings exchanged by the militants and police have added fuel to the already tense atmosphere in Kashmir.
Given the rising toll of casualties and no visible efforts by New Delhi to engage different stakeholders in a meaningful dialogue, people are worried about the possibility of a breakout of another deadly spell of protests this summer.
Updated Date: Mar 12, 2017 12:21 PM