Over 50 persons, including 30 police and CRPF personnel, injured in clashes

Over 50 persons, including 30 police and paramilitary personnel, were injured when unrest spread to the countryside and, despite a curfew, protesters clashed with law enforcing authorities at a dozens of places in all 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley on Wednesday. The death of a youth, allegedly in Army firing at Baramulla on Tuesday, has added fuel to the fire as the authorities have already been beset with trouble arising out of Afzal Guru’s execution and the controversial death of a Kashmiri student in Hyderabad.

Worrisome trend

Notwithstanding a perceptible change in the Army’s behaviour — remarkably, the Northern Command chief’s sympathies and condolences to the Baramulla family, besides the assurance of a time-bound inquiry and punishment to the guilty — the wave of unrest seemed to be spreading beyond the traditional trouble spots in Srinagar, Sopore and Baramulla towns.

In an attempt to prevent the demonstrations and clashes from spreading to rural and semi-urban localities, the authorities placed downtown Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla, Kulgam and Trehgam towns under curfew. Undeclared curfew was in place in other areas of the capital city, excluding Civil Lines, as also almost all other district headquarters and major townships.

The recently forged separatist alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Mashawarat, had called on the people of Kupwara district to march to JKLF leader Maqbool Bhat’s village of Trehgam and the people of Bandipore and Baramulla districts in north Kashmir to throng Afzal Guru’s village of Jageer, near Sopore. Bhat and Afzal had been hanged to death at Delhi’s Tihar jail.

The State government and Defence authorities on Wednesday took a joint initiative to restore peace and the visibly declining peoples’ confidence. General Officer Commanding of 15 Corps, along with senior Army officials, met representatives of Baramulla residents. They were joined by senior authorities of the police and the civil administration. Later, Minister of Medical Education and senior Congress leader Taj Mohiuddin, National Conference leader and Minister of State for Home Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo and National Conference MLA Javed Ahmad Drar joined the meeting with the civil society.

Questions raised

Sources present at the meeting told The Hindu that the Ministers sent ex gratia relief of Rs. 5 lakh and assurances of “strict action under law” to the bereaved family. However, they faced serious questions about the credibility of the “government’s investigations, inquiries and assurances.” It was pointed out that such investigations and assurances had failed to stop the “chain of civilian killings by the armed forces.”

The residents demanded the registration of an FIR against the Commanding Officer of Rashtriya Rifles 46th battalion by name, as also his arrest and prosecution.

Authorities placed downtown Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla, Kulgam and Trehgam towns under declared curfew

Ministers have sent ex gratia munificence of Rs. 5 lakh and assurances of “strict action under law” to the bereaved