From protests against security forces, Kashmir is now witnessing a protest against the protesters.
On Thursday, Srinagar observed a shutdown to protest against the death of a shopkeeper at the hands of stone-wielding protesters.
On December 3, 25-year-old Tariq Ahmad Bhat was severely beaten by a mob armed with cricket bats, for refusing to participate in a protest. He died in a hospital on Wednesday.
“Bhat objected to participate in a shutdown called against the use of pepper gas on protesters by security forces. He was beaten up for raising his voice against it” said his relative.
Bhat’s house is on Nowhatta street, the focal point of the 2010 summer unrest, after a 17-year-old student died there on June 11 2010, hit by a tear gas shell.
The incident triggered street clashes for five months, which claimed the lives of over 100 people, most of them youths. The protests were spearheaded by hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
“Those involved in the act (Bhat’s killing) should be booked,” said Naseer Ahmad, a member of the old city traders’ association, which is observing a shutdown. “A fitting punishment should be awarded to them.” Four people have already been arrested for the killing.
“There is a well-organised group behind it, we are looking for the others,” said Shiv Murari Sahai, inspector general of police, Kashmir. “We stand vindicated that there is an element of coercion from the stone throwers,” he added.
“We condemn the killing committed by unknown men,” said Peer Ghulam Nabi, a senior Hurriyat leader, who had gone to visit Bhat’s family.
Geelani, too, described the act as “highly condemnable”.
“It is unfortunate that people try to enforce shutdown through violent means, which goes against out constitution,” Geelani said. “Use of force for closing down shops is unacceptable to the Hurriyat.”