Life disrupted in strike-bound Kashmir Valley for second day
25 February 2006
Srinagar: Life in Kashmir remained disrupted for the second consecutive day on Saturday, following a general strike called by the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference to protest against the killing of civilians in the Handwara and Bandipora areas and the holding of a roundtable conference on Kashmir. The separatist outfit Dukhtaran-e- Millat (Daughters of Faith) extended its support to the strike call. Streets here were deserted, with most shops, business establishments, banks, semi-government establishments and courts remaining closed and vehicles keeping off the roads. The response was near-total in the other major towns in the Valley. The border district of Kupwara observed a complete shutdown for the fourth day, following the killing of four youths allegedly by Army personnel on Wednesday. Army spokesmen, however, denied the charge, claiming that the casualties occurred in a gunfight between militants and the security forces. Meanwhile, an undeclared curfew was lifted in Handwara district, where the situation is improving. Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Basharat Ahmed Dhar, Inspector-General of Police K. Rajendra and General Officer Commanding, Kilo Force, Major General N K Singh visited Dhudipora and distributed an ex gratia relief of Rs 3 lakh each to the families of the civilian victims. They also handed over appointment letters to the kin. Mr. Dhar said, 'The situation is limping back to normal.' Major General Singh said the 'killings were an aberration and unfortunate.' The Army paid Rs. 2 lakh and the State Government Rs. 1 lakh towards compensation for each victim. Army officer replaced Mr. Rajendra said a special recruitment drive would soon be held in the village. The Army also responded to the villagers' demand to replace Captain Sushant, who they alleged was behind the killings. The Army, the Superintendent of Police and the Assistant Commissioner of Kupwara have launched three separate probes into the incident. Dubbing the roundtable conference, convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a futile exercise, the Hurriyat in a press statement said: 'It's India's attempt to show to the world community, especially to U.S. President George Bush, that we're talking to Kashmiri leaders.' The moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference sent a message to Delhi, saying talks could not continue if human rights violations continued unabated in Kashmir. The former Hurriyat chairman, Moulana Abbas Ansari, blamed the Centre for 'not fulfilling its promise' of releasing detainees, stopping human rights violations and changing the situation on the ground. The Shia cleric told this correspondent that during a meeting on September 5 last Dr. Singh assured the Hurriyat leaders of a positive change. 'This is the change they talk of. Innocents are being killed.'