Two persons were injured when security forces opened fire on protesters in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district even as curfew remained in force in the Valley for the twelfth consecutive day Wednesday. The death toll rose to 44 after 75-year-old Gul Muhammad, who was injured three days ago in Kupwara, succumbed to injuries at a hospital.
Police said the situation was under control throughout the Valley, though incidents of stray stone-pelting were reported from different areas. “Stone-pelting incidents were reported from Nowpora in Sopore, Koundbal, Alesting in Ganderbal, Sangam in Anantnag, Kaloosa in Bandipora and Reck Chowk, Karan Nagar in Srinagar,’’ said police.
Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh, who was in the Valley on a day’s visit to review the security situation, expressed grief and concern over the casualities of civilians and security forces, and “complimented the troops for showing maximum restraint even in the face of grave provocation”.
The Army Chief also met J&K Director General of Police and was reassured about the “excellent synergy” between Army, police and intelligence agencies, said an army spokesman.
Meanwhile, in a surprise move, the state government decided to reopen schools in four districts of the Valley from Thursday, cutting short the summer vacation that had been extended till July 25 after protests erupted in Kashmir. A notification issued by the government said schools will reopen in Baramulla, Bandipore, Budgam and Ganderbal districts from July 21 instead of July 25.
“We have decided to reopen schools in these districts,” Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar told The Indian Express. “The decision has been taken on the requests from parents. The parents of children from different areas have been calling me and asking why the schools are closed in their areas”.
This comes amidst the separatist leaders extending the shutdown call by three more days.
The Kashmir Private Schools’ Association slammed the government’s decision to reopen the schools, saying it “wants to sacrifice children to show normalcy” in the Valley. “They (children) are soft targets. The government is using them as human shields to show there is normalcy,” said G N Var, president of the association.
With inputs from Arun Sharma, Jammu
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