A complete shutdown was observed in the Valley Sunday in response to a strike call by the separatist leadership to protest against the death of seven civilians in a firing by security forces in south Kashmir’s Pulwama a day ago.
Seven civilians were killed Saturday when security forces opened fire on protesters after an encounter in which three militants and an Armyman were killed at Sirnoo village. While the J&K police said the civilians were killed when they came “dangerously close” to the site of the encounter, eyewitnesses claimed they were killed more than an hour after the gunfight. An inquiry has been ordered into the incident by the government.
The Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik, had on Saturday declared a three-day mourning and shutdown across Kashmir. They also asked people to march towards Srinagar’s Badami Bagh Army cantonment on Monday — the cantonment is the headquarters of Army’s 15 Corps.
The Army, meanwhile, has urged people “not to pay heed to the misleading call” by the JRL.
A statement issued by a defence spokesperson in Srinagar on Sunday, said, the “objective of the security forces is to bring peace and normalcy in the Valley with the support of awaam (people). Security forces make every attempt to avoid any loss of civilian lives in cross-fire and minimise collateral damage to property. Loss of any civilian life is always painful…”
The statement also said that “vested interests are continuously at work to instigate and mobilise gullible youths to encounter sites… The call given by JRL for march to Badami Bagh Cantonment is another such attempt. Indian Army is always with the people of Kashmir and would foil all such evil attempts of Terrorist-Separatist-Pakistan nexus to pit the civilian population against the security forces,” the statement said.
March call signals shift in strategy of separatists
The call for a people’s march towards the Army’s 15 Corps Headquarters in Srinagar on Monday signals a shift in the separatists’ strategy in the state. The march call, a first since the 2010 protests, indicates that the separatists, in absence of a political outreach, have toughened their stand. While the state police are unlikely to allow any movement towards the Badami Bagh cantonment, the call itself can have far reaching consequences.
According to the J&K police, appropriate measures would be taken to foil the JRL march. A senior police official told The Indian Express that restrictions will be imposed in several areas Monday and no one would be allowed to march towards the Badami Bagh cantonment area.
Meanwhile, on Sunday the authorities imposed restrictions in Pulwama and parts of Srinagar city “as an precautionary measure” to maintain law and order, even as mobile internet services continued to remain suspended in several parts of the Valley. Business establishments, shops and educational institutes too remained shut in most districts of the Valley. The shutdown call also got response in Chenab region of Jammu. The Imam Khumini Memorial Trust, a religious school of Kargil, condemned the civilian killings.