Two days after protests erupted over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, the J&K government appealed for calm, urging mainstream political parties, separatist leaders and parents of children taking to the streets to help restore peace in the Valley.
With five more persons killed Sunday, the death toll climbed to 21. A policeman was killed in Anantnag when protesters pushed a vehicle into the Jhelum river.
J&K education minister and cabinet spokesman Nayeem Akhtar said: “At Sangam, a mobile bunker of police was pushed into the river along with its driver. The driver passed away.”
According to official records, more than 800 people have received injuries in clashes with security forces. As the injured were taken to hospitals, the Government Medical College in Srinagar declared an emergency, delayed routine surgeries and cancelled leaves of doctors.
Police said protesters torched a barrack of the Government Railway Police and Railway Protection Force at Bijbehara railway station, a police post at Damhal Khushipora and a building in Soibugh, Budgam.
According to police, protesters clashed with security forces in Pulwama, Shopian, Lassipora, Rajpora, Litter, Pampore, Damhal, Sangam, Zainpoea, Qaimoh, Yaripoea, Bijbehara, Vailoo, Sopore, Baramulla, Kupwara, Tarzoo and several other places across Kashmir.
“During law-and-order situations at Newa, Lasipora and Litter in Pulwama, three persons were injured and later succumbed to their injuries,” a police statement said, adding “one police vehicle and some seized vehicles were set on fire at Lasipora Pulwama when arsonists attacked the police post”.
In Srinagar, 21-year-old Shabir Ahmad was shot dead Sunday evening. Neighbours say Ahmad worked as a mason. From the local mosque, a resident announced: “They chased and killed him near his house and in front of his father.” This was the first civilian death outside south Kashmir.
On Sunday, a large number of people took to the streets at several places in Pulwama, defying curfew and restrictions. Security forces opened fire, killing three civilians.
The J&K government appealed to mainstream parties and separatist leaders to help restore peace.
“The cabinet unanimously appeals to all political stakeholders and parties to help the government bring back normalcy as soon as possible. We appeal to all shades of political forces who have expressed concern over the loss of lives. We appeal to the mainstream political parties — National Conference, Congress, CPM and the independent legislators. And also to those who are not in the mainstream and are really concerned about these killings… if they want peace to return to the Valley, they should support us,” Nayeem Akhtar told a press conference.
Maintaining that the government will look into allegations of “use of disproportionate force” by security personnel, Akhtar blamed protesters. “If there has been use of disproportionate force anywhere, we will go to the bottom of it. But at most places, police stations were set on fire, attempts were made to overrun camps and soldiers were forced to use their weapons. As a society, we should not take it to the level, whether it is needed or not, that the man who holds a gun is forced to use it,” he said.
He also appealed to parents whose children have been taking to the streets. “It has been seen that in most such situations, young children come out on roads. A few among them hurl petrol bombs. After doing this, they run away. They are trained in it and when there is reaction to this action, they (children) become its victim. We feel that the responsibility to look after the children lies with the parents.”
The separatist Hurriyat Conference said Akhtar’s appeal for support was ironic. “Until yesterday, this government was saying we are a threat to peace. They jailed us, gagged us and today they are asking us to help restore peace,” Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told The Indian Express.
“It is like digging a well at the time of fire. It has always been the case with this government and with New Delhi too. They have an ostrich-like attitude. It (government) is unwilling to acknowledge the political problem. They need to realise this and take a serious approach. If they are not acknowledging it, what can we do? Peace can’t be created in a vacuum”.
National Conference provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani said: “Whether they appeal to us or not, the National Conference is always going to come out for the safety, protection and welfare of the people.”We are not like the PDP. We will not do what they did in 2010. They added fuel to fire. Omar sahib (Omar Abdullah) has been appealing to people to maintain peace. But they (government) also have to handle it properly. They can’t go on firing at people.”