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Deadly Ramzan: Violence during holy month captures state of conflict in Kashmir

Deputy SP Pandith’s lynching, attack killing 6 policemen mark one of the deadliest Ramzan’s in Kashmir valley in the recent past

india Updated: Jun 25, 2017 15:09 IST
Abhishek Saha
Abhishek Saha
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
A woman walks past shops during a curfew in Srinagar on Friday, a day after Mohammad Ayub Pandith was beaten to death at Jama mosque. (AFP PHOTO)

This year’s Ramzan has been the bloodiest in the recent past with 43 people --- soldiers, policemen, civilians and militants --- killed since May 28, the day the Muslim holy month began.

The most brutal of the deaths was the lynching of deputy superintendent of police MA Pandith outside the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar where he was stripped and beaten to death on what was the most auspicious night of the holy month.

The spike in violence, people in the Valley say, underscores the period of unrest in Kashmir that began last year and has claimed at least a 100 civilian lives – a toll that goes climbs significantly if soldiers, policemen and alleged militants are counted in.

“In the early 1990s, there was a time in Kashmir when militants would escalate attacks on security forces specifically during Ramzan,” said Sheikh Mushtaq, senior journalist and former Kashmir bureau chief of Reuters.

“But in the recent past, that has not been the case. This year there has been a spike in violence, but that has been going on (since) before Ramzan began. The violence -- due to an accumulation of many factors -- just passed into Ramzan. It’s coincidence.”

Last year’s Ramzan saw 32 deaths in Kashmir. It was a few days after the holy month’s end that Hizbul Mujahadeen militant Burhan Wani was killed on July 8, 2016, triggering one of the Valley’s the current period of turmoil.

Ramzan holds a spiritual significance for Muslims around the world, packed with a tight schedule of rituals. Historically, violence in Kashmir has taken a back seat during this period.

“It is one of the bloodiest in Ramzans in Kashmir’s recent history in terms of number of deaths and the gruesomeness of the incidents,” a local political observer said, wishing to not be identified.

The conflict, he said, has remained largely unabated due to a lack of effort to ease the tension between security forces and civilians.

“The increase in infiltration attempts from across the border only adds to the tension,” he said.

Since Ramzan began on May 28, three army soldiers, five civilians, nine cops and 25 militants and one CRPF jawan have been killed. A day before the holy month began, Sabzar Bhat —a Hizbul commander who held an appeal similar to Wani — was killed by security forces, fanning tensions afresh.

Of the 32 people killed during last year’s Ramzan from June 7 to July 5, there were two soldiers, 22 militants, eight CRPF jawans, and no civilians.

Khurram Parvez, program coordinator at the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) notes that the increase is in civilian killings this time. “It seems the wish of the army chief and sections of electronic media is being fulfilled,” said Parvez, alluding to a statement by army chief General Bipin Rawat who said protesters in Kashmir will be dealt with sternly.

With the news of Bhat’s death fresh, Ramzan began with spontaneous protests. The first three days were marked by calls for shutdown, curfew and restrictions. Clashes between forces and civilians claimed at least one civilian life in the initial days.

A little less than three weeks later, militants carried out one of the deadliest attacks on security personnel in recent times when they killed six policemen, including station house officer (SHO) Feroz Ahmad Dar.

Data from JKCCS shows the state witnessed an increase in the overall number of killings compared to the corresponding period last year. One hundred and thirty people (35 security personnel, 78 militant, 17 civilians) were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in January-June last year and this year that number rose to 196 (52 armed forces, 88 militants, 55 civilians), their analysis shows.

First Published: Jun 24, 2017 17:51 IST