The spectre of violence is back in Shopian district, which witnessed more than two months of shutdown in the wake of deaths of two women in May and put Kashmir on the boil. This time, it's suspected militants who fired and shot dead a woman from point-blank
On April 4: Militants gunned down 60-year-old Reshma Begum in Kellar.
On May 30: Unidentified persons shot dead Sahib ud din in the same village
On June 2: 26-year-old girl Nageena Akthar was shot dead in the same area
In July: Parveena was killed in similar circumstances.
On July 22: Mohammad Aslam Awan and his three-year-old son were shot dead by unknown gunmen in Gujjar Patti Keller.
It was around 7:15 on Tuesday when Daisy Mir, younger sister of the victim, heard knocks on her door. "I opened the door and saw an unknown person asking my name. I told her I am Daisy and he ventured inside our kitchen and pointed out at my elder sister, asking her name," said Daisy, who is a Class 10th student. "When I told the bearded person she was Sheeraza, he pulled up his pheran (long cloak) and cocked his gun and shot five times at my sister."
Sheeraza Akhtar, who was 21-year-old, died on the spot. Akhtar's father Muhammad Maqbool and mother were present in the kitchen when the militant fired at her. A resident of Hergam, Kellar, and 65 km south of Srinagar, Muhammad Maqbool is a farmer by profession. Maqbool's son, who is a driver by profession, was not at home on the fateful evening.
"I have been offering food to militants, providing shelter to them for the last 14 years in the hope they will get azaadi (independence) to Kashmir but never knew they will make me their casualty," said Maqbool, sitting in his two-storey pucca house in Kellar. The village is next to forest range of Pir Panchaal.
Police suspect hand of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militants in the incident. "A batch of the HM militants is active in that forest range and we have been able to neutralise some but still a few are active. We think they are behind the act," Superintendent of Police, Shopian, (SP) Shahid Mehraj told the Hindustan Times.
Mehraj said the militants, who are looking for shelter and food in the winters in villages here, were getting poor response from people. "So they (militants) are trying to create fear particularly among womenfolk who stay mainly at home during the day as the men venture out for work," said Mehraj.
The police have started manhunt to nab the militants involved in the killing. Police sources said this is sixth killing of civilians in the district this year.
Meanwhile, the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference was quick to condemn the killing. "Any killing of innocent person is condemnable. Nobody has right to kill women, or innocent civilians," said Bilal Lone, chairman of People's Conference and a close aide of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who also heads a faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), condemned the killing of Sheeraza.