Three police officials, BJP activist killed in Kashmir on Eid
A police inspector, two constables and three policemen and a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker were killed, hundreds of civilians clashed with police, and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah found himself as a target of protesters on Wednesday in a sudden escalation of tensions in Jammu and Kashmir that coincided with the arrival of the state’s new governor-designate Satya Pal Malik.
Malik, according to officials in the state who asked not to be named, is likely to be sworn in on Thursday to take charge of the state’s administration – replacing NN Vohra, who has held the post since 2008.
Kashmir has been under Governor’s Rule since June 20 after the last government – a coalition between the BJP and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – collapsed. This is the fourth period of Governor’s Rule since Vohra took the post, which has often required him to be a crisis manager -- a role that Malik will now inherit.
The first indications of it came on Wednesday, when new clashes broke out as hundreds of people protested against the BJP over a court hearing on Article 35A — a law that restricts what people from outside the state can do in Jammu and Kashmir. Separatist organisations have called for two-day shutdown from Sunday against the hearing being held in Supreme Court.
In attacks that police spokespersons blamed on militants, two constables and a BJP worker who was abducted on Tuesday evening were murdered. The bullet-riddled body of BJP’s Shabir Ahmad Bhat was found in the fields in Kupwara. A constable who was killed when he stepped out to offer Eid prayers in Kulgam was murdered by militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, a police official added.
Shortly after Eid prayers on Wednesday, protests broke out in several parts of the Valley. Police fired tear gas shells and pellets, and charged people with batons to disperse crowds in several districts.
Around six people were injured in these clashes. Most of the protesters were raising anti-India slogans, as some waved flags of Pakistan and the Islamic State, eyewitnesses said. A police spokesperson sought to downplay the clashes, saying the prayers were mostly peaceful.
Former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, too, got caught in the protests as he was offering Eid prayers at Dargah Hazratbal. People standing behind him started shouting slogans against India and showed their shoes to the politician, who was whisked away from the mosque by his security guards.
“I did not leave the venue and completed my prayers. They are my own people. They are misguided and I cannot escape my duties of being their leader,” Abdullah later told news agency PTI while receiving people at his residence.
On Wednesday evening, police said militants barged into the house of Inspector Muhammad Ashraf Dar in Larve village in Pulwama district.
“They fired at the officer from close range resulting in his death on the spot,” a police officer said.
A new governor for Jammu and Kashmir was not unexpected since Vohra’s term was initially scheduled to end on June 28. The Union government, officials had said at the time, wanted him to stay a little longer as the annual Amarnath Yatra was about to begin. The Hindu pilgrimage requires close preparation and monitoring from the security point of view.
Malik, who was received by top administration and police officials at the Srinagar airport on Wednesday, will take oath at Rajbhawan on 11am before chairing his first security review meeting on Thursday, according to an official in the state administration who did not want to be named.
In addition to the gubernatorial change in Jammu and Kashmir, the election of a new Pakistani prime minister – cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan – might also have implications for the region.
(With inputs from PTI in Srinagar and HTC in New Delhi)