With four civilians killed in the past 24 hours and 70 others injured as the police opened fire to quell demonstrations in different parts of Srinagar, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Tuesday sought the Army's help in tamping down mass protests that have not abated despite several days of curfew.
The push to seek deployment of the Army in Srinagar in assistance of civil authority was made late on Tuesday night by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, but sources say Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and the Central government are reluctant to draw the armed forces into extended policing duties. Among the limited options being considered is the use of the Army to stage ‘flag marches' in tense areas, but even this kind of limited deployment is seen as fraught with the risk of aggravated confrontation with protesters. Army commanders spent Tuesday night working out a plan for deployment of between 15 and 20 companies of soldiers. The idea is to have them ready to aid the police and the CRPF on Wednesday morning, as and when the Centre takes a final call on the Army's use.
After 10 days of trouble, there was an expectation of a return to normality but Tuesday's escalation saw a jittery State government turn to the Centre for help as one tragic death led to another.
On Monday night, the death of a youth, Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, who was drowned in a stream after he was allegedly chased by the CRPF led to tension in the Tengpora area of Batmaloo. Locals alleged that he was not only chased but attacked by the police and the CRPF. Sources said Minister of State Nasir Aslam Wani was visiting the area, which irked the youth who protested and ended up being chased by the police.
As Bhat's body was fished out on Tuesday morning strong protests ensued. Additional forces of the CRPF and police personnel were rushed to the spot. The forces opened fire in an attempt to control the mob, killing a protester, Fayaz Ahmad Wani, and injuring three others. This further enraged the people who assembled on the streets, chanting anti-India and pro-azaadi slogans.
When the CRPF was trying to control another mob, a 25-year-old woman, Fancy, who was watching the demonstration in the Lachmanpora area, was hit by a stray bullet. A police spokesman said the bullet hit her when the forces opened fire in the air. But her relatives alleged she was targeted by the CRPF.