Security forces could have given Burhan Wani a chance to live if they knew the Hizbul Mujhadieen commander was inside a house that came under fire during an encounter on July, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Thursday.
Wani’s death on July 8 has rocked Kashmir over the past three weeks as tens of thousands of people clashed with security forces, leaving at least 50 dead and nearly 2,000 injured.
With escalating violence, many have questioned the role of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and Mufti’s personal popularity has cratered in the Valley with mounting deaths and outrage, especially because of an alliance with the unpopular BJP.
The 57-year-old possibly attempted to undo some of that damage with her comments.
She said intelligence agencies only knew of three militants in the area and wasn’t aware Wani was present in the house. “Considering that the situation was improving in the state, I think security agencies would have given him (Wani) a chance had they know about his presence,” she said.
She rejected charges of mismanagement during the clashes, blaming “professional elements” inflaming passions and instigating local boys to attack security camps.
She said her predecessor Omar Abdullah had known about Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s hanging in 2013 and hence imposed curfew beforehand to ward off violent protests.
“Had we known the measures would have been in place.”
Wani had emerged as a poster boy of militancy in the Valley in the past six years through his viral photographs in military fatigues or slick video messages. The 22-year-old became the face of a new generation of militants who were educated, well-to-do and residents of Kashmir.
She assured the families of the victims that they would be given compensation and called for a review of the controversial pellet guns that have left many people blind or with serious injuries.
“The boys are young, we hope their sacrifices yield some results and there is some headway on Kashmir,” she added.
Her words came hours after separatist leaders asked people to ostracise and boycott PDP legislators as they were allegedly facilitating “oppression of their own people’’.
A joint statement by separatists, including hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani and moderate leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Mallik, asked for a social boycott of the leaders.
“Since they claim to represent the people they gravely betrayed, it’s time people hold them accountable and pressurise them to vacate. The people shall ostracise and boycott them at all levels, socially and publicly. They shall no longer be allowed to exploit the people and the sacred freedom struggle,” the statement read.