New Delhi: The death toll in the clashes between protesters and security forces in Kashmir rose to 23, as normal life remained paralysed for the third day Sunday in the Valley. The violence has been spurred by curfew-like restrictions and separatists-sponsored strikes in the wake of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter on Friday, July 8. According to news reports, over 200 people have been injured in clashes with the police.
“Two persons have died in an incident of violence in Kulgam district yesterday and have been identified as Feroze Ahmad Mir (22) and Khursheed Ahmad Mir (38),” a police official said. He said the information about their deaths was not available yesterday due “inadequate” communication facilities in south Kashmir district.
A policeman was also killed after a mob of protesters pushed his vehicle into the Jhelum river in South Kashmir’s Tenpura on Sunday evening.
Over the weekend, four police stations were set on fire across Kashmir and 40 government offices were attacked.
Authorities have strengthened the presence of security forces in vulnerable areas of the city and elsewhere in the Valley to contain the protests, a police official said.
Around 5,000 pilgrims have been stranded as Amarnath Yatra has been suspended for the third consecutive day. Curfew is in place in all 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley.
The state government has appealed to all political parties and separatist leaders to help maintain peace in the Valley. “The cabinet unanimously appeals to all political stakeholders and parties to help the government bring back normalcy as soon as possible. We appeal to all shades of political forces who have expressed concern over the loss of lives. We appeal to the mainstream political parties — National Conference, Congress, CPM and the independent legislators. And also to those who are not in the mainstream and are really concerned about these killings… if they want peace to return to the Valley, they should support us,” education minister Nayeem Akhtar said.
Moderate Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umer Farooq blamed the ruling government for the fresh cycle of violence. “What do they want us to do? They label us as a threat to peace and cage, confine and gag us. We are not even allowed to offer Eid prayers! How can we be of help?”
Mobile services have been suspended in the four districts of south Kashmir since Friday evening, and university and school exams were postponed. Train services have been suspended and the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway was closed.
The death toll is likely to increase as all four prominent government hospitals in Srinagar are treating scores of people with critical injuries, police and hospital sources have said.
(With PTI inputs)