Kashmir on the boil: 10 killed in protests, lakhs attend Burhan's funeral
The entire Kashmir Valley is on the boil. At least 10 civilians were reportedly killed and scores wounded in firing by government forces at protesters in south Kashmir's Kulgam and Anantnag districts. The death toll, according to the doctors and police officials, is likely to increase, for the number of people with bullet injuries is pretty high.
The violence broke out as thousands of people marched towards Tral, the hometown of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani, to participate in his funeral prayers amid passionate pro-azadi, pro-Burhan and anti-India sloganeering.
Government forces claimed to have killed Burhan, the poster boy of Kashmir's new age militancy, along with two associates in Kokernag in Anantnag district on the evening of 8 July, but serious questions are being raised by many about the authenticity of the gunfight.
In a hurriedly called press conference at Srinagar's Police Control Room, Inspector General of Police SM Gillani, flanked by Additional Director General of Police CID SM Sahai, confirmed that eight civilians had been killed in police action.
"Eight people have died in clashes between forces and protesters in Kashmir, a day after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed," IGP Gillani said.
The number later reportedly rose to 10.
Eyewitness account from the funeral
Senior police officers told Catch that at least one lakh people participated in Burhan's funeral, while eyewitnesses put the number much higher than that.
Hours before Burhan's funeral, Waheed, a Tral resident, posted a picture on his Facebook page, saying that "massive funeral expected.. People from all parts of Kashmir thronging Eidgah Tral to catch the last glimpse of Tral's Greatest! #Burhan."
After Burhan's funeral, the same person posted other pictures, while claiming that more than three lakh people participated in the slain militant commander's funeral.
"3 (three) lac plus! Dare i say. Pics of one of the several funerals that were held throughout the day as Tral bids adieu to its greatest hero! #Burhan," he wrote.
Reports and eyewitnesses also said that a small group of militants also participated in funeral prayers in Tral, and offered him a three-volley salute.
Situation tense and out of control
The situation in the south Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Anantnag, and Kulgam continues to be "very tense" and "out of control", as people protesting Burhan's killing set ablaze two police stations in Achabal and Damhal Hanjipora, and a separate police post in Kund area of Qazigund, eyewitnesses and police said. Local media reports also confirmed this.
Angry protesters also smashed cameras and other electronic equipment of India TV news channel in south Kashmir.
Hundreds of young protesters used public address systems in local mosques to mobilise people to participate in Burhan's funeral and protest demonstrations.
A senior police official told Catch that curfew is likely to be imposed in south Kashmir and parts of Srinagar for the next two days or more.
Anger against police
Protesters mourning Burhan's death raised anti-police slogans, eyewitnesses said.
"Police ka jo yaar hai, gaddar hai, gaddar hai (friends of police are traitors)," shouted angry protesters in Tral town.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has expressed deep grief and agony over the death of youths during protests at various places in the Valley.
"I express profound grief over the tragic death of the youths and extend my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family members in their hour of immense grief," she said.
She added that disproportionate use of force for crowd control resulted in the loss of precious lives and grave injuries, which 'should be avoided at all costs'. She asked the police and the paramilitary forces to use Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) while dealing with protesters, to avoid loss of precious human lives or injuries, a press release issued by the J&K information department said.
Urging for calm, Mehbooba sought people's cooperation in the restoration of normalcy in the Valley.
"Violence only brings misery to the people and tragedy for the victims' families," she said, and appealed to people, especially the youth, not to fall prey to the machinations of 'vested interests', who play politics over the dead bodies of Kashmiris.
She also prayed for the early recovery of the injured, including civilians and police personnel, and asked the health authorities to provide the best possible treatment to them.
Pro-azadi camp extends strike call
Meanwhile, all influential leaders of the pro-azadi camp have been either placed under house arrest or taken into preventive custody. Even the second rung leadership has been detained to stop the Hurriyat and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front from mobilising public opinion, to avoid a repeat of the 2010 mass agitation.
The pro-azadi camp, while paying glowing tributes to Burhan, asked people to observe a strike on 10 and 11 July to mourn the militant commander's death. On 9 July, Kashmir observed a complete bandh.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of his faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, told Catch that he strongly deplored the killing of civilians in south Kashmir, and said that "the problem with the Indian state is that it refuses to even acknowledge that there is a political dispute called Kashmir".
"Indian soldiers and police have come down heavily on the protesters, because they want to crush the azadi sentiment of the people, and also know that they are accountable to none in Kashmir," the Srinagar-based Mirwaiz said.
"The lives of Kashmiris are being taken for granted. The government forces could have used water cannons, but their response to any protest in Kashmir is pellets and bullets," he said, adding that "the Indian state is responsible for the killings and usurping our political and economic rights. The anger on the streets is genuine, because India has choked all democratic spaces in Kashmir".
Net snapped, Amarnath Yatra suspended
Fearing massive protests on the streets and outpouring of emotions on social media, the authorities decided to snap mobile internet (2G and 3G) services throughout Kashmir, while mobile phones went off in Tral and its adjoining areas.
Authorities also suspended the holy Amarnath Yatra, as well as train services from Baramulla in north Kashmir to Banihal in south Kashmir.
The authorities also postponed all examinations scheduled for 9 July.