A former sarpanch was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, and the 86th day of unrest on Sunday was marked by sporadic protests and clashes in the Valley.
Police said Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, 30, was shot at by assailants outside his home in Kandzal area of Pulwama. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but did not survive.
“He was a sarpanch affiliated with the National Conference,” said station house officer of the area, Sarjan Ahmad. The five-year tenure of Panchayats ended in July.
Sarjan said it was not immediately clear who were the assailants, and a manhunt was launched in the area to track the attackers. Militants, who had warned people against local elections, have targeted sarpanchs in the past.
Sporadic protests were reported amid a shutdown as protests over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on July 8 entered its 86th day.
In the southern district of Kulgam, a few residents alleged that security forces vandalised residential properties during raids on the houses of stone-pelters. They alleged the forces set ablaze some structures, including a house, cow sheds and paddy straw heaps besides damaging vehicles.
The incident reportedly prompted the villagers to come out on the streets in the morning, triggering clashes with security forces.
Police have denied the allegation. Kulgam superintendent of police, Shridhar Patel, said they were returning after arresting nine stone-pelters when some youth threw stones on the forces. “After we left, some miscreants set ablaze two grass heaps and damaged a truck,” he said.
Shops, businesses and schools were closed and public transport remained off the roads.
Since the protests began on July 9, 88 people have lost their lives and over 10,000 have been injured.
The latest victim, Muzaffar Ahmad, a resident of central Kashmir’s Chek-i-Kawoosa in Budgam district, was hit by pellets in his eye in mid-September, developed infection and died on Saturday at a hospital.
Apprehending protests in the district, the authorities on Sunday imposed restrictions in some areas from Narbal to Chek-i-Kawoosa. Road blocks and concertina wires were laid to prevent people from marching.
However, the youth in many areas of the district including Chek-i-Kawoosa tried to defy the shutdown and organize pro-freedom rallies, prompting the police and CRPF to retaliate. In the nearby Mazhama, there were clashes between stone-pelting youth and government forces, who responded by firing tear gas shells.
In north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, people tried to organize a protest rally in Putushai on the call of separatists but were stopped by security forces. The forces fired tear gas shells and used mild force to disperse the protesters.
Separatists have been issuing protest calendars, demanding the right to self-determination, even as authorities have been imposing curfew, on and off. The latest protest programme has been extended to October 6, with a relaxation on three days from 5 pm to 6 am.