At least three people were killed and many more injured as police once again clashed with protesters across the state on Monday, while a central team led by union home secretary Madhukar Gupta and defence secretary Vijay Singh rushed down to take stock of the rapidly worsening situation.
Two protesters demanding that the cancelled land allotment to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board be restored were killed as police resorted to firing at Samba, 40 km south west of Jammu, when milder measures failed to control a violent mob. In Srinagar, 400 km away, another youth, hit directly by a teargas shell died, protesting against the alleged assault on Muslims in Jammu.
“This is the worst communal situation I’ve seen since 1947,” said Major General Goverdhan Singh Jamwal (retd), who was once ADC to Karan Singh. “It is unimaginably bad.”
The deaths in both places had the effect of furthering inflaming passions, and many more people came out into the streets to oppose the police. “The Srinagar killing was pure police brutality,” said Yasin Malik, JKLF chief, who is on a fast in protest.
Pitched battles between protesters and the police were fought all day across Jammu, while residents of the Kashmir valley observed a general shutdown and demonstrated to oppose the Jammu protesters actions.
“If the situation is not handled properly it could lead to the worst ever polarisation between Jammu & Kashmir,” said Zahoor ud Din, retired registrar of Jammu University.
The central team assessed the situation in Jammu on Monday before proceeding to Srinagar.
Meanwhile, offical sources claimed that the blockade on the highway linking Jammu and Srinagar had been practically cleared ever since it was handed to the army on Sunday, and trucks carrying both fruit from Srinagar and essential supplies from Jammu had begun regularly plying.