Kashmir shuts to mourn civilian killings


Srinagar, Kashmir observed a complete shutdown on Monday to mourn the killing of eight civilians by government forces at different places on the polling day in Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary constituency on Sunday, even as many youth sustained injuries in fresh clashes while unknown persons torched two government schools and a Panchayat ‘ghar’ in south Kashmir’s Shopian and Pulwama districts, reports and witnesses said.

Reports said unknown persons torched Government Middle School at Padarpora Shopian last night. The school was identified as a polling booth for April 12 elections (that were deferred till May 25) in South Kashmir, officials said.

Meanwhile, unknown persons set ablaze Government High School Avend- Rawalpora in Shopian on Monday evening, locals told Greater Kashmir over phone.  “We heard two loud bangs inside the newly-constructed school building and within a few minutes, fire engulfed the entire structure,” they said, adding: “The residents used water motors to douse the flames.”

Fire tenders were trying to put off the blaze when this report was filed.

In yet another incident, unknown persons set on fire a Panchayat ‘ghar’ at Banderpora Pulwama in South Kashmir, officials said, adding that the building was partially damaged.

Amid complete shutdown, intense clashes erupted in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district after forces allegedly detained seven youth during nocturnal raids. Four youth were detained at Gopalpora and Okay (Wukai) villages in the district, triggering protests.

Reports said a youth identified as Bashir Ahmed was allegedly beaten by the forces personnel with gun-butts. He was taken to district hospital Kulgam for treatment.

“A family member of an active militant was detained by the Army at Behbagh in Kulgam and was taken to the Army camp located at Kulgam-Shopian road,” locals alleged. They said as the word about the arrest spread, people took to the streets and staged massive protest demanding immediate release of the youth.

Reports said youth pelted stones at forces in some old town areas of Anantnag and Bijbehera town, while Pulwama observed a complete shutdown. Tral remained tense as the forces were deployed in every nook and corner of the town to thwart protests, they said.

The Central Kashmir’s Budgam district observed a complete shutdown. All main roads and markets presented a deserted look while hundreds of people thronged the residences of seven slain youth killed in forces’ firing in Budgam district on the polling day in Srinagar-Budgam Parliamentary constituency on Sunday, reports said.

Entire Budgam district remained in a state of shock and mourning.

“All the areas, including Chadoora, Beerwah, Charar-e Sharief, Magam, Khag and Khansahab, which witnessed large scale violence on Sunday, remained calm but tense today,” official sources said.

Locals flooded the residences of slain youth and demanded a judicial inquiry into the killings, stating that “forces deployed for poll duty lost their cool as they were not trained to handle the situation. Our district has not seen such a mayhem even when the militancy was at its peak.”

Meanwhile, mourners raised pro-freedom slogans at residences of slain youth at Ratsun, Churmujroo, Dalwanpora, Sogam and Dadompora localities.

Residents of Kawoosa, Khalisa and Narbal said that strict curfew remained imposed in the villages and forces didn’t allow anyone to venture out.  “In the evening forces started frisking the pedestrians in the village while as half a dozen people were thrashed by them,” they alleged. “This triggered massive stone pelting in the area.”

“Forces barged into the village and smashed the windowpanes of residential houses at Maqbool Colony and Bunpora vicinities,” locals alleged.

Many pro-freedom activists visited the residences of slain youth and expressed solidarity with the bereaved families. Reports from Dadompora said slain youth Amir Manzoor, who was killed at Sogam Chadoora, was laid to rest at 12:30 am amid pro-freedom slogans. Rest of the six slain youth were laid to rest on Sunday evening only, reports said.

Reports from Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district said curfew-like restrictions were in place in various areas to thwart any protests. A youth, Amir Farooq was killed in the forces’ firing in poll-bound Baroosa area on Sunday. “The funeral of the slain youth was held on (Monday) morning at his native village. Thousands of people attended his last rites,” reports said.

Meanwhile, a protest rally was taken out in Kangan town against the civilian killings. “I wonder how BSF was deployed for law and order when their job is to secure borders,” said NC leader and MLA Kangan Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar. He condemned civilian killings on polling day in Central Kashmir and demanded an impartial probe.GK