Street protests return to Kashmir after LeT commander Abu Dujana killed
Government forces killed a top commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Kashmir on Tuesday, triggering street protests that left one person dead and prompted the authorities to shut down mobile internet and schools.
Police said Abu Dujana’s killing was a “huge achievement” for the government that has hardened its stand against militants after a recent spurt in violent street protests and attacks on security forces.
Late Monday night, police were tipped off about an “A++ target” meeting a woman in a village in south Kashmir. Around 4am, security forces raided a house where Dujana was said to be meeting his wife.
An hours-long gunfight followed, and after Dujana refused to surrender soldiers blew up the house. Dujana’s body was charred “nearly beyond recognition”. A local 15-year-old accomplice, identified as Arif Dar, was also killed. Dar’s family told Hindustan Times he joined the militants two years ago, leaving home with only Rs70 and a cricket uniform in his backpack.
Police say Dujana crossed over from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) in 2010, and was “a master of disguise” who escaped multiple military traps and remained the longest-surviving militant from across the border.
The 27-year-old carried a reward of Rs 15 lakh, but officials said he was lately a nuisance who harassed women.
Kashmir director general of police SP Vaid confirmed that Dujana was married but said it was not clear if the LeT commander had gone to meet her.
“He had married a local Kashmiri girl, today also he had gone to meet a girl, (but) can’t be sure if it was the same girl,” Vaid told Hindustan Times.
The GOC of 15 Corps, Lt Gen. J Sandhu, told reporters that Dujana was less into militancy of late and more into “aiyashi”, an Urdu word that translates to debauchery.
Dujana’s killing came just over a year after the gunning down of top Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani.
As news of Dujana’s death spread, thousands of Kashmir residents came out onto the streets and clashed with government forces, throwing stones at them.
Troops retaliated by firing tear gas, pellet guns and bullets, killing a young man in Hakripora village near Bandipora, around 30 km from state capital Srinagar, witnesses and police said.
Wani’s killing in July last year sparked months-long street protests by stone-pelting civilians across Kashmir, leaving close to 100 people dead. His successor Sabzar Bhat was gunned down by security forces in May this year.
A top police official said forces will not back off despite growing protests, which have prompted global rights bodies to call for restraint by India to avoid civilian deaths.
“Stone pelting or no pelting, disruptions or no disruptions, our operations will continue,” said Kashmir’s inspector general of police Munir Khan.
“In spite of our warnings and requests, people on behest of terrorists tend to come in between encounter(s)...that is how they get injured or killed.”
India accuses Pakistan-based groups of funding the street protests and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is probing money trails from the neighbouring country to separatist Hurriyat leaders.
Following the protests on Tuesday, the authorities shut down schools and colleges for the day and cut mobile internet, frequently targeted by authorities to stop the spread of what they claim to be rumours and fake messages that provoke civilian anger.
Dujana was among 11 top militants of the valley, many of whom were categorised A++ target by the army.
Dujana’s marriage, sources said, could have been the reason for a rift with his-Pakistan-based handlers.
He was challenged by one of his aides, Abu Ismail, who set up a rival faction along with some Kashmiri youth. Sources said most of militant incidents involving LeT were carried out by the rival group, including the recent attack on Amarnath pilgrims.
IG Munir Khan said Dujana was involved in “harassment of girls”.
“I want to tell women and girls in the valley that they are safe now,” Khan added.
(With agency inputs)