Violence continued in Kashmir for the fourth day on Tuesday as the toll climbed to 32, hospitals struggled with hundreds of injured and chief minister Mehbooba Mufti appealed to mothers to keep their children at home while promising judicious use of force.
In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called an emergency meeting to review the situation in the Valley, where violence after the killing of militant Burhan Wani by security forces refuses to die down. Government sources said the next two-three days would be crucial with intelligence agencies warning that Pakistan-backed groups may make trouble on Martyrs Day (Wednesday).
Delhi University student Amir Latoo died late Monday of bullet injuries sustained earlier that day in south Kashmir’s Zirpora while one person was killed when a mob set a police vehicle on fire in north Kashmir’s Kralpora Kupwara area on Tuesday. The deaths took the toll to 32, though the police maintained an official count of 23.
Divisional commissioner Asghar Samoon confirmed 1,365 injured but said 80% of them had minor wounds. HT found at least 110 patients with bullet injuries in Srinagar’s three major tertiary care hospitals.
There were also reports of a suspected militant attack on a police post in north Kashmir’s Sopore, and attacks on police guard rooms in Tral and Pulwama in the south. In Srinagar, CRPF and police personnel were targeted with a petrol bomb. There were no casualties in any of the incidents.
All 10 districts of Kashmir remained curfew-bound for the fourth day.
In a video message — her first public response to the killings — Mehbooba lamented the loss of lives. A mother of two, she said she felt the pain of mothers who had lost their children, and appealed to them to keep the young away from the violence.
The Peoples Democratic Party chief, who heads an alliance government with the BJP, promised action against security personnel who used excessive force while adding that some people were taking advantage of the situation and adding to tensions.
She also sought the help of religious leaders and civil society in restoring peace while expressing pride in the way Kashmiris had come to the help of stranded tourists and Amarnath Yatris.
Also making an appeal for calm, PM Modi expressed “unhappiness” at the media coverage that he said appeared to portray the dead Hizbul Mujahideen commander as a “hero”. He referred to over a dozen cases registered against Wani, the 21-year-old poster boy of modern-day militancy in Kashmir.
At the meeting — attended by home minister Rajnath Singh, defence minister Manohar Parrikar and senior officials — Modi reviewed the law and order situation in J-K and the implementation of a financial package. He was briefed by foreign secretary S Jaishankar on Pakistan’s response to Wani’s death.
“He has appealed to the people of J-K to maintain peace so the situation can normalise. He also expressed hope that no innocent person should face any kind of inconvenience or loss,” minister of state in the prime minister’s office Jitendra Singh said.
Rajnath Singh postponed travel to the US for a security dialogue scheduled for next week, though a ministry official cited a busy Parliament schedule due to the monsoon session from July 18 as the reason.
Ghulam Nabi Azad of the opposition Congress said it was “terrible” that the police had been “let loose” on the old and young in the state.
(with HTC inputs in Delhi)