Srinagar, Dec 15 (IANS) It was a blood-soaked Saturday in Kashmir in which 11 persons, including seven civilians, an Army soldier and three militants, were killed and over three dozen civilian protesters sustained injuries in clashes with the security forces.
The 11 deaths took place in a gunfight and subsequent clashes in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, in one of the bloodiest days in the Valley’s recent history.
The gunfight erupted in Sirnoo village as security personnel surrounded the area after receiving a tip-off that militants were holed up there.
Three militants and a soldier were killed in the gunfight, the police said.
One of the three slain militants, Zahoor Ahmad Thokar, had deserted the Army to join the militant ranks.
Immediately after the gunfight, scores of civilian protesters clashed with the security forces who used firearms and pellets to control the agitating mob.
Two youths identified as Amir Ahmad and Abid Hussain were declared brought dead in a district hospital where they were taken for treatment of gunshot injuries.
Five other civilian protesters — Suhail Ahmad, Shahbaaz, Liyaqat Dar, Tauseef Ahmad and Murtaza Bashir — succumbed to their wounds later, authorities said.
Reports coming from the area said that more than 35 protesters were injured in the clashes and three of them were critical after receiving gunshot wounds.
Spontaneous protests broke out immediately after the news about the civilian killings spread in the Valley.
Protesters clashed with the security forces in north Kashmir’s Sopore town where the security forces used tear smoke to disperse the protesters.
No injury to any protester or security man was reported during these protests.
Protests also occurred in old city Nowhatta area of Srinagar where protesters shouted anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.
Students of the Kashmir University also carried out peaceful protest in the campus over the civilian killings in Pulwama district.
Markets, public transport and other businesses were shut in south Kashmir, Srinagar and Badgam district and some other places after the tension spilled over to these areas.
Authorities have imposed curfew in Pulwama town and deployed additional security personnel to maintain law and order in the wake of the civilian deaths.
Mobile internet services were suspended in south Kashmir districts and in Srinagar while its speed was brought down throughout the Valley.
Rail services between the Kashmir valley and Bannihal town in the Jammu region were also cancelled.
Reacting to the tragedy, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in a tweet: “Another blood-soaked weekend in Kashmir. Six protesters killed, one soldier killed in the line of duty. Together with the three militants from this morning’s encounter that’s 10 dead. Reports of many injured at the encounter site. What a horrible day!”
Omar slammed Governor Satya Pal Malik’s administration for its alleged failure to ensure that civilian casualties are avoided during gunfights.
“The administration of Governor Malik has one task and one task only – to focus on the security of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and restore peace to a troubled Valley. Sadly, it appears that’s the only thing the administration is not doing. Publicity campaigns and full page ads don’t bring peace,” he said.
Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also expressed serious concern over the day’s incident.
“How long are we going to shoulder the coffins of our youngsters? So many civilians killed today post encounter in Pulwama. No country can win a war by killing its own people. I strongly condemn these killings, and once again appeal for efforts to stop this bloodbath,” she said in a statement.
Senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq called the incident “a massacre of Kashmiris” and announced a three-day Valley-wide protest shutdown beginning on Saturday.
“#PulwamaMassacre, bullets and pellets rain! As government of India has decided to kill Kashmiris through its #ArmedForces who control us, the JRL (Joint Resistance Leadership) and people will march towards Badami Bagh Army cantonment on Monday, Dec 17, to ask to kill all of us at one time rather than killing us daily,” he said in a tweet.
He also appealed to the world community to take cognizance of the serious situation in Kashmir.
Other political leaders condemning the civilian killings included Ghulam Hassan Mir of Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) and Engineer Rashid, former MLA.