Srinagar: The violence in Jammu and Kashmir over the death of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani, which saw nine protestors being killed and scores of others injured, has threatened to put state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in a tough spot.
South Kashmir particularly Anantnag has been a political bastion of her Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), where it won most of its seats in the November-December 2014 J&K Assembly elections.
Earlier elected to Lok Sabha from her home constituency Anantnag, she also won the recently held by-poll on a seat from the region that her father and PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had left vacant following his death in January this year.
On Saturday, much of south Kashmir was on the boil following the killing of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the new-age poster boy of militancy.
Along with two close associates, he was killed by security forces in an encounter in Anantnag’s Kokernag area on Friday, sparking off widespread protests and violence in the Valley. Anantnag and neighbouring districts of Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian are particularly on the edge. In Tral, the home town of Wani deep inside Pulwama, tens of thousands of mourners turned up at his funeral.
In anticipation of a flare up, the Chief Minister had reportedly directed chiefs of all security forces to ensure restraint in dealing with the situation. But as the day drew to an end, as many as ten protesters were killed and scores of others hospitalised, most of them with bullet injuries.
As has been put by certain separatists and some mainstream political parties, the carnage has put Mehbooba in a tough spot, perhaps the most difficult situation of her political career, as she would find it hard to justify the killings much less when, as an opposition leader, she would use every death at the hands of security forces, even militants, for slamming her political bête noire and then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
On Saturday, it was Abdullah’s turn to pay her back, criticising the handling of the situation post Wani killing. He cautioned “Mark my words - Burhan's ability to recruit in to militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media”.
Many saw in the assertion a plea that instead of being killed Wani should have been captured alive. People within and outside J&K turned to social networking sites to endorse the view or express similar opinion following the spurt in violence in the Valley following iconic militant commander’s killing.
In another tweet, Abdullah said, “After many years I hear slogans for "Azadi" resonate from the mosque in my uptown Srinagar locality. Kashmir's disaffected got a new icon yesterday.”
Ironically though, Mufti chose to publicly express “deep grief and agony” over the death of youth in the security forces’ actions across the Valley on Saturday, despite the fact that she held the Home portfolio.
“I express profound grief over the tragic death of the youths and extend my heart-felt condolences to the bereaved family members in their hour of immense grief,” she said in a statement.
That at a time when two senior most officers of the J&K police ADGP (CID) SM Sahai and IG (Kashmir) Syed Mujtaba Gillani hurriedly called a press conference trying to justify the security forces’ firings, on the plea that it was a ‘difficult and critical’ day for them and that they actually only retaliated to a series of mob attacks on the police stations, garrisons, homes of politicians and the key infrastructure.
But the Chief Minister indirectly accused the security force of using disproportionate’ force against the protesters.
She said “disproportionate use of force for crowd control results in loss of precious lives and grave injuries which should be avoided at all costs”. She asked the police and the paramilitary forces to use Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) while dealing with protesters to avoid loss of precious human lives or injuries.
Urging for calm, Mufti sought people’s cooperation in restoration of normalcy in the Valley. “Violence only brings miseries to the people and tragedies for the victim families,” she said and appealed people, especially the youth not to fall prey to the machinations of the vested interests, who, she alleged, play politics over the dead bodies of Kashmiris.
She also prayed for early recovery of the injured including civilians and the police personnel and asked the health authorities to provide best possible treatment to them.
Earlier speaking during public hearing at her office here, she called for reaching out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to resolve the issues confronting the State and ending the scourge of violence that has left behind a trail of death and destruction. “The pain of Kashmiris has reached a level where the hope of peace is sure to gain substantial local support if tangible confidence building measures are taken to address the issues concerning the state and its people,” she asserted.
She also said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir, irrespective of their age, gender, status or the political affiliation, have been suffering the terrible consequences of the pernicious turmoil over the last more than two decades.
“They now want peace and stability to take roots, and even within the prevailing circumstances there lies an opportunity to consolidate the peace efforts, if substantial steps are taken in the right direction to positively impact the ground situation,” she said, stressing the need and urgency for reviving the peace and reconciliation initiatives, both on the internal and external fronts.
Mufti, seeking people’s cooperation in stabilizing peace added, “The Government is responsive to the people’s needs and concerned about their problems and is working judiciously and in a transparent manner to fulfil their aspirations and expectations.”...