Kashmir Valley remained on the edge on Sunday with the death of 19 people in two days of public protests after security forces killed young Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, the troubled state’s latest poster boy of militancy.
A youth was killed in the Tengpora area in Srinagar on Sunday, the first in the state’s summer capital. A policeman drowned after a mob in Anantnag pushed his vehicle into a gushing tributary of the Jhelum. Unconfirmed reports put the death toll at 21 as violence spread to northern Kashmir as well.
The entire Valley remained shut with a string of pickets and police patrol trying to prevent stone-pelting protesters from marching on the streets. Mobile phone internet service has been blocked, while curfew was clamped across the Valley as clashes continued.
Groups of protesters clashed with security forces following news of Wani’s death on Friday evening. A dozen people died in the unrelenting violence on Saturday, while seven more, including the policeman, were killed on Sunday.
The 22-year-old Wani, a popular social media-savvy militant, and two other militants were killed on Friday when security forces cornered them in the Kokernag area of Anantnag.
A militant since 15, this schoolteacher’s son had apparently influenced scores of Kashmiri youth to join militancy in the past few years through slick social media posts and videos.
Pakistan, which has been accused of supporting separatism in Kashmir, called Wani’s death a condemnable case of extrajudicial killing.
“Such acts are a violation of fundamental human rights of Kashmiris and cannot deter the people of Jammu and Kashmir from their demand for the realisation of the right to self-determination,” Islamabad said in a statement.
The remarks came at a time the coalition government of the Peoples Democratic Party and the BJP as well as hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani appealed for calm. Geelani asked the youth not to attack police stations but protest peacefully.
Arsonists torched three police posts when thousands of people participated in Wani’s funeral in his hometown, Tral, on Saturday. Three civil administration offices, the house of an MLA from the ruling PDP, several vehicles and a BJP office were targeted too.
Protesters torched a police station in the Soibugh area of southern Kashmir on Sunday, while militants hurled three grenades on security forces, injuring three.
Additional director general of police SM Sahai said 14 youth died of bullet or pellet wounds, one drowned during a police chase, while another was killed when his car met with an accident during the violence.
According to reports, more than 200 people, including 100 security personnel, were wounded.
Of these, 70 were being treated for grave bullet or pellet wounds, sources said. Two of the three policemen who went missing with their service weapons in the chaos were traced by Sunday afternoon, Sahai said.
The worst-hit southern districts of Pulwama, Anantnag and Kulgam have been rigged with a tight security ring.
Fresh clashes were reported from southern Kashmir and most parts of Srinagar. The fatalities are reported from mostly southern Kashmir’s Pulwama, Anantnag, Kulgam and Bijbehara areas.
Many were wounded when police fired in the air to quell protests.
The Jammu and Kashmir government held a special cabinet meeting to review the situation on Sunday. The cabinet, according to government spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar, raised serious concerns about the deaths over the past two days.
“Forces should exercise maximum restraint to ensure no collateral losses occur,” Akhtar said.
The government sought cooperation from political parties as well as separatists to ensure peace.
Barring hospitals, the Valley recorded a complete lockdown with private offices, business establishments and petrol pumps remaining shut for the second day.
Authorities asked security forces to treat identity cards of government employees as curfew passes so that essential services are not affected.
Separatists extended their strike till Monday. Separatist leaders Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq remained under house arrest, while Yasin Malik was under preventive detention.
The annual Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage from Jammu was suspended, as did mobile internet and rail services.
Reports indicate that 140 militants are active in the Valley. Intelligence reports say the majority of local recruits – around 60 – are from southern Kashmir.