Three killed in Kashmir as protesters defy curfew, toll 93


Srinagar: Violence continued to sweep Kashmir Friday with three more youths killed in firing by the security forces as protesters defied the indefinite curfew imposed across the Valley. The latest deaths take to 93 the toll since the current spell of unrest began June 11.

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As the indefinite curfew entered its fifth day, residents in several areas complained of shortages of food, medicines, cooking gas and another necessities.

Meanwhile, Srinagar airport reopened Friday for civilian flights after being closd since Sep 3 for recarpeting the runway. The flights had been shifted to the Avantipora Air Force Base some 30 km away but these had also been suspended Monday after violent protests initially triggered by reports that the Quran had been desecrated in the US.

Police said security forces intervened to disperse a stone-pelting mob that had blocked the Srinagar-Baramulla road in Tappar village, 35 km from here, in Baramulla district.

“The mob resorted to heavy stone pelting at the security forces which opened fire to disperse the mob that had blocked the Srinagar-Baramulla highway since morning,” police said.

“A protester, identified as Gulam Rasool Bhat, 25, was declared dead by doctors at the nearby Sumbal sub-district hospital. Three other protesters were injured in the incident,” police said.

Earlier in the day, a 22-year old protester, Fayaz Ahmad Dar, was killed in firing by the security forces during a clash between stone-pelting protesters and the security forces in Gotpora village in Badgam district.

In Shirmal area of Shopian district, another youth, identified as Imtiyaz Ahmad, was critically injured when security forces fired on a huge mob that set on fire the seized timber of the forest department. He was brought to a hospital in Pulwama where he succumbed to his injuries.

Police said another 12 protesters sustained injuries in all these incidents.

According to a police statement, the situation “by and large continues to remain under control”. It said stone-pelting incidents after Friday prayers were also reported from Padgampora, Awantipora, Main Chowk Sopore, Malik Masjid and Aaliapora areas of Shopian.

“The miscreants were, however, chased away.

Meanwhile, the body of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik’s cousin Yaseer Hameed Sheikh, who had been injured here Aug 30 in police firing and had died in Delhi’s Apollo Hospital Wednesday, was flown in here Friday.

Sheikh’s body was buried by neighbours and relatives here Friday, heightening tensions further in the already sensitive Maisuma area of the city.

Curfew was, however, effectively enforced in Srinagar, where no major untoward incident was reported during the day.

People, however, complained they were not permitted to offer congregational Friday prayers at major mosques like the Jamia Masjid in the old city and the Hazratbal shrine.

Police said large gatherings were disallowed to prevent post Friday prayer violence in the city.

“Residents of Srinagar offered Friday prayers at the local mosques in almost all the areas here today,” police said.

People living in different areas of the city complained of shortages of baby food, medicines, cooking gas and food.

“We have rations for just another three days left with us. My mother, who is diabetic, needs insulin injections on a regular basis. I fear if the curfew continues like this, her life would be in danger,” said a resident of the old city who did not want to be named.

In response, a senior police officer here said: “We have made repeated announcements through local TV and radio stations as also through loudspeaker-mounted vehicles in areas under curfew that in any emergency, the residents must contact the station house officer (SHO) of the nearest police station.”

“Clear orders have been given to SHOs to respond promptly to emergency calls. No civilian will be allowed to suffer on account of shortages of medicine and essential supplies.”

“Orders are also clear about allowing ambulances carrying the sick to hospital without causing any inconvenience to them. But I must add that we have to ensure that the passage of ambulances and other vehicles belonging to essential services is genuine,” the officer added.

Meanwhile, hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, who spearheads the “Quit Kashmir” campaign, has issued a calendar of protests up to Sep 26.

Under this, the people have been asked to resume normal their activities for two days – Sep 20 and Sep 22. Residents have also been asked to resume normal life from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day.

An all-party delegation is slated to visit Kashmir Monday for a first hand look at the situation and suggest measures to calm tensions in the volatile Valley.