J&K Unrest: Death Toll Crosses 104 In 100 Days18 September 2010
The Economic Times
Srinagar: Death continues to be the only constant in the Kashmir Valley with the toll mounting to 104 over the last 100 days. On Saturday, security forces opened fired at three places leaving 30 persons injured of whom three died. Despite the fresh round of clashes, curfew was relaxed in parts of Srinagar. Even as unrest continued in the Valley, Jammu and Kashmir’s main opposition party PDP held discussions with parties in New Delhi on ways to defuse the situation. On Saturday, PDP chief Mufti Mohammed Sayeed met with CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. He had earlier met with CPI leaders AB Bardhan and D Raja. Mr Sayeed is understood to have pinned hopes on the upcoming visit of an all-party delegation to the state on Monday to seek views of cross-section of people. The PDP leader has suggested that the delegation should meet the families of victims of police firing. Even as the PDP chief consulted with other party leaders on the road ahead to bring the 100-day old protest to a close, one of the party’s youth leaders, Bilal Ahmad Najar was injured while leading a protest and allegedly indulging in stone throwing in South Kashmir. The incident virtually exposed the role of the PDP in the ongoing strife. The PDP has been refuting allegations about its involvement in the ongoing turmoil. The police claim to have dozen dossiers about the involvement of its cadres in the agitation and would carry out a crack down soon. As parleys continued ahead of Monday’s all party delegation, news of deaths too continued. The first report of a death came from the Bemina locality of Srinagar where a critically injured Fayaz Ahmad Naikoo died. Naikoo was on a ventilator in SKIMS since Tuesday when he was shot in head from a very close range by CRPF. Violence erupted in south Kashmir Anantnag during the funeral procession of Maroof Ahmad Nath. Violence was triggered by the recovery of Nath’s body from the Jhelum river. Nath, along two others had jumped into the river as the police chased a group of protestors on Tuesday. The confrontation with the security forces took place, according to the police, as the angry crowd attacked the residence of Samajwadi Party ‘leader’ Fayaz Ahmad. They wanted to set the house a fire necessitating police action, the police spokesman said. Seven persons were injured during the clashes, one of them Noor-ul-Amin Dagga died on the way to the hospital. Day’s major shock came from the north in Palhalan in Pattan area in Baramulla district, 32 kilometres from Srinagar. The army is understood to have has taken over the area almost completely. According to the local populace, the firing was unprovoked. After the afternoon prayers were over, residents of Palhalan alleged the army opened fire on them leaving five persons injured. Two persons died on the way to the hospital. The police said a crowd blocked the Srinagar-Baramulla National Highway and started heavy stone pelting on security forces as they tried to clear the highway. This led the security forces to open fire. Palhalan is north Kashmir’s major village that is located near the highway. It was restive after five men were allegedly mowed down by the police almost in cold blood soon after they escorted a senior police officer out of the area last week. In another incident, at least one person was injured when a protest was on way to the main Kupwara town. An army camp located on the road is alleged to have opened fire on them. Most of the peripheral Kashmir and all the vital routes have already been taken over by the armed forces. The armed forces have remained aloof from the crisis since it erupted in June with a spate of civilian killings. They unwillingly opted for a symbolic flag march in July. The army moved in after Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani asked people to protest before army camps on September 21. On Friday when army took over in most of Kashmir, there was panic in the separatist camp. It is understood that the separatists had conveyed the message that the programme was being called off in wake of apprehensions that it may spiral into massive civilian losses. Srinagar continues to be manned by CRPF and the police. A number of paramilitary men have been shifted to Srinagar after armed forces replaced them in parts of the Valley. The curfew was relaxed for a few hours on Saturday for the first time in seven days. Though people were out in the market, there was nothing much to be purchased as supply lines have already gone into hibernation. Hospitals and the medical shops were the most visited places during the relaxation. In most of the areas the relaxation proved short-lived as protests resumed forcing re-imposition of curfew. It is in this situation that Omar Abdullah’s beleaguered government is making efforts to receive the all party delegation led by home minister P Chidambaram. It would be spending a day in Srinagar and one in Jammu and would return on Tuesday. Already Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani has ruled out the possibility of meeting the delegation. “Since the mandate of the delegation is limited to talking within the framework of the Indian constitution, we have decided not to meet it,” Mr Geelani said. The government is understood to be making efforts to rope in some of the separatist leaders. However, Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said on Saturday that he had not received any invitation from the Centre to meet with the all-party delegation. “We have not received a formal invitation so far. We have only come to know about it through the media and it would not be prudent to react on media reports.” Mr Farooq said.