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Kashmir Valley’s political class faces rising militant ire

Militants either lobbed grenades at residences of politicians or masked gunmen barged into houses and ransacked them and also threatened the inhabitants.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2017 07:41 IST
Abhishek Saha
Abhishek Saha
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Kashmir Valley,Kashmir,Kashmir violence
Suspected militants gunned down a PDP worker in Shopian, and a day later set his house ablaze. (Photo by special arrangement)

Suspected militants attacked eight houses of political workers in south Kashmir in the past one week — from October 16-22 — with observers saying the sudden spike indicates the failure of security apparatus in the state.

Though such attacks by insurgents on political workers, perceived to be “pro-india”, have been occurring sporadically in the Valley for a long time now, the current spate has caught attention because of its frequency.

The recent attacks began with the killing of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former village sarpanch Mohammad Ramzan Sheikh by a group of suspected militants in Shopian district on the night of October 16.

One of the militants was also killed when his colleague opened fire. The next evening, after the funeral of the slain militant, a mob of 200 set the political worker’s home ablaze, probably blaming the family for the death of the militant. Since then, from October 19 to 22, there have been multiple instances every day in Tral, Kulgam and Shopian.

Militants have either lobbed grenades at the residences of a politician or a group of masked gunmen have barged into a house and ransacked it while threatening the inhabitants.

“Yes, these attacks are taking place and we are doing our best to stop this,” director general of state police (DGP) SP Vaid said.

Seven of the victims belonged to ruling PDP, while one was an EX-MLA of National Conference (NC).

Calls to senior PDP leader and minister Naeem Akhter and youth president Waheed Para went unanswered. On the killing of Sheikh, Para had tweeted: “Killers are always losers.”

A tweet by NC spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu on Sunday read, “Spate of attacks on mainstream political leaders and workers in Kashmir is alarming, threatens the existence of the democratic system in J&K.”

Commenting on the incidents, a senior police officer said, “Why these attacks are taking place is the job of experts to analyse. But I can say that police will get a breakthrough very soon.”

On the other side of the narrative were allegations of vandalism by forces in the houses of active militants in Shopian and Pulwama last week.

Locals in south Kashmir see the attacks by militants as a retaliation to the vandalism at their homes. On Monday, there were protests in Tral against the alleged ransacking of militants’ homes. Media reports documented such a protest in Tral last week too.

When asked about a link between the allegations and the attacks, DGP Vaid said he “has no idea”.

Meanwhile, two videos emerged on social media on Sunday, which captured militants threatening political workers.

The militants were heard telling the workers that if the vandalism of their homes and harassment of their families continued, the extremists would make them “migrate” out of Kashmir. “What have our families done?” a militant’s voice asks the political worker , even as he tells him that a gun should be fought with a gun and not by targeting families.

HT could not verify the authenticity of the videos.

“The state needs to come up with well-meaning strategies to put an end to this vicious cycle of violence in Kashmir. Addressing the predicament of Kashmiri youth and trying to counsel them might be a good option rather than harassment, surveillance and torture,” said Noor Baba, a renowned Srinagar-based political scientist.

List of attacks on political workers in Kashmir in a week

October 22:

Grenade attack on the house of an ex-MLA of the NC in Tral town of Pulwama district.

Militants ransacked the house of a zonal president of the PDP in Kulgam district.

The house of a PDP youth leader was ransacked in Kulgam.

October 21:

Militants barged into and ransacked the house of a PDP zonal president in Dadsara area of Tral.

Militants reportedly ransacked the house of a PDP worker in Wachi area of Shopian.

October 20:

Grenade lobbed at the house of a PDP MLA in Tral.

October 19:

Militants attacked the residence of a PDP MLA in Zainapora area of Shopian.

October 16:

A PDP worker was gunned down by a group of suspected militants in Shopian. One of the militants was also killed when his colleague had opened fire. The next day (October 17), a mob of around 200 set the PDP worker’s home ablaze, blaming the family for the death of the militant.