Praveen Swami

Worst day of violence since Amarnath Shrine Board controversy erupted

SRINAGAR: Police and army personnel opened fire across Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, in which 15 protesters were killed. This was the worst violence seen since the State government’s decision to grant land-use rights to a Hindu religious trust sparked massive protests last month.

Some of the worst violence was reported from Srinagar, where six protesters were shot dead, in day-long skirmishes between mobs and police.

Police killed three more protesters in the central Kashmir town of Lasjan, where police said Islamist-led rioters had attempted to storm the home of the former Minister and People’s Democratic Party legislator Javaid Ahmad Mir. A police officer was also seriously injured in the firing, which officials said was initiated by Mr. Mir’s panicked bodyguards.

Soldiers killed three more protesters, including a woman, near the north Kashmir town of Paribal. A spokesperson for the Srinagar-based 15 Corps said the protesters, who were throwing stones at an isolated military picket, refused to disperse despite repeated appeals.

A protester was killed in Anantnag, although confirmation on the cause of his death was not available.

Police in the remote mountain town of Kishtwar killed two members of a mob that attacked homes belonging to the region’s Hindu minority. Half a dozen homes were reported damaged in the attacks, which mark some of the most serious communal violence so far seen in the Shrine Board rioting. Earlier, Hindu chauvinist mobs initiated several arson attacks against Gujjar Muslims’ homes in and around Jammu.

Eight people have now died in Jammu since Hindu chauvinist groups launched a movement demanding that the Shrine Board’s land-use rights be restored — three in police firing, one in a terrorist grenade attack, one in an accident, and the last in a protest-suicide. In the Kashmir region, the death toll is over three times as high.

Tuesday’s wave of violence in Kashmir came even as tens of thousands of people gathered in Srinagar for the funeral of secessionist leader Abdul Aziz Sheikh, who was shot dead while participating in a march seeking to force its way across the Line of Control on Monday.

Both All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairperson Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who lead its rival-turned-ally, the Tehreek-i-Hurriyat, called on their supporters to stage three more days of protests, leading up to India’s independence day on August 15. However, both leaders called on protesters to ensure that their demonstrations remained peaceful, and appealed to the police not to use lethal force to disperse them.

APHC leaders also plan to make renewed attempts to cross the LoC after August 16, an action they say has been necessitated by the choking off of road links out of the Kashmir valley by Hindu fundamentalist groups — claims the State government denies.

More In: Today's Paper