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A pioneering week in Kashmir

india Updated: Feb 07, 2011 00:12 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Toufiq Rashid
Hindustan Times
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"I didn't want to repeat the mistake of last year," Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah told Hindustan Times, after visiting Handwara to console the family of a young man killed by the army, which reportedly took him for a militant.

The supposed "mistake" the CM committed was not having been able to visit the families of any of the 112 civilians who died in last year's summer unrest. Calling the army action "needless", he said, "The family was gracious enough to let me inside their home."

After some quiet months, Kashmir saw a violent week, which had some "firsts", however. For the firs time, people's anger was turned on militants in connection with the killing of two sisters Asifa and Akhtara in Sopore, 54 km north of Srinagar. The event did not pass off as just another case of killing. This act by suspected militants, who forced the sisters out of their home before shooting them, sparked protests and a shutdown.

The second major "first" this week was Abdullah taking a tough stand. For the first time, the chief minister used technology to make his position clear. Condemning the killing on Twitter, he criticised the separatists for not coming out to condemn the deaths. The issue he raised saw others following suit with their condemnation – the opposition People's Democratic Party and both the moderate and extremist factions of the Hurriyat.

Sopore, a bastion of hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani, closed down completely and Srinagar saw demonstrations by small groups condemning the killing. Two days after the incident there was some reaction on Srinagar streets. A group of about 30 women, completely veiled, gathered in a park at Lal Chowk to protest the act. The women were holding placards, asking people, mostly separatist leaders, to condemn the act in the same way they (separatists) had done in the Shopian incident of the alleged rape and murder of two women in 2009.

The call for the shutdown was given by Geelani himself, whose role in mobilising protests against alleged excesses by the security forces left him with little option but to condemn the killings. Geelani also sent a delegation, led by Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar, to Sopore.

Social networking sites and blogs vociferously deplored the incident. "Nobody can label women promiscuous and kill them," one post said.

Meanwhile, the World Kashmir Students Organisation, a group mostly comprising students and professionals, had called for a march to Sopore on Sunday, but later deferred it to next Friday. "More people want to join, so we have deferred the march," said Junaid Azim Mattoo, president of the group.