Srinagar: As allegations of security forces’ inflicting atrocities on local population come in, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has warned against ‘excessive’ use of force while containing the ongoing turmoil in the Valley.
In a televised message on the eve of ‘Martyrs’ Day’, while urging the people to cooperate with the State government amid the turbulent situation in the Valley, Mehbooba assured that action will be taken against security forces for using 'excessive force'.
The Valley is on the boil since Friday last when Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the 22-year-old new-age ‘poster boy’ of militancy and a heartthrob of its defiant youth, was killed in a reported encounter in southern Anantnag.
The news was received by people with dismay, and soon the streets were filled with huge crowds of mourners, many among them seething in anger. At places, ‘Intifada’ - as habitual stone pelting battles between protesting Kashmiri youth and security forces locally are referred to, followed.
‘Intifada’, literally meaning ‘tremor’ or ‘shuddering’, are actually popularised Palestinian campaigns directed at ending the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The first lasted from 1987 to 1993 and the second began in 2000.
The security forces responded by using terrible force, which has been admitted even by the Chief Minister, though indirectly. 33 protesters have been killed, all but one in shootings and as many as 1,500+ injured, so far. More than 400 received bullet and pellet wounds above their waist lines which doctors who attended on them said suggests the security forces opened fire only to kill.
Over 150 persons including young boys and girls in the 5-10 age group have suffered eye injuries mainly in pellet gun firings. Ophthalmologists have conducted 97 surgeries for such patients during the past five days at Srinagar’s government-run Sri Maharaj Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital alone.
A total number of 111 patients with eye injuries were admitted to this hospital since July 9 and 47 of them have been sent home after successful surgeries. However, the condition of 22 to 30 victims is said to be bad and doctors are trying hard to improve their vision. “We’re doing our best but I’m sorry to say that five of them have already lost their vision and there is no chance of any recovery. Regarding the rest, we have not lost hope,” said a senior ophthalmologist at the SMHS who wished anonymity.
The police and CRPF authorities have defended their actions against the protesters and violent mobs saying they were only “compelled” to use force and, in fact, in many cases they exercised restraint in spite of severe provocation and being caught in life-threatening situations.
They said more than 150 security personnel have been injured in mob attacks and stone-pelting incidents, and recall how a police driver Afroz Ahmed was on July 10 pushed in River Jhelum at Sangam outside Srinagar by a mob, resulting into his instant death.
Also, scores of police stations and posts, camps of security forces and other infrastructure has been damaged in incidents of arson and other attacks from irate crowds.
But hundreds of houses, cars and other private property belonging to locals has been damaged. At places, homes were ransacked and inmates thrashed. Even ambulances transporting the injured to hospitals were attacked and tear gas canisters fired into hospital premises including at the SMHS hospital.
A medical facility in remote Lolab area of frontier Kupwara district and a nearby pharmacy were ransacked and their staff roughed up by security forces as they were allegedly “angry” over those sustaining injuries during protests being treated there.
The extent of anger against the security forces, particularly the J&K police and CRPF is such that there have been attacks on the families of local policemen by enraged mobs. One such attack took place at Chadrigam in Tral area of southern Pulwama on Tuesday when a mob allegedly barged into the house of a police official Muhammad Ashraf and beat up his wife and daughter.
Though Superintendent of Police, Awantipora, Sridhar Patil, tried to play the incident down, saying only the windowpanes of the house were damaged, this is for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir’s turbulent history that the families of policemen have come under mob attacks in such fashion. However, the thrashing of the mother-daughter duo evoked condemnation in the Valley and beyond and many people took to social networking sites to voice their disapproval. Mohammed Afaaq Sayeed, a frequent Facebook user wrote on his Wall “Atrocious to say the least. This should be condemned by all... Any one condoning this will be blocked by me instantaneously”.