Politics

Kashmir: Pellet Firing Continues; Mehbooba Says ‘Sacrifice of Children Won’t Go to Waste’

Mehbooba Mufti. Credit: PTI/Files

Mehbooba Mufti. Credit: PTI/Files

Three weeks after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by security forces in Kashmir, the situation in the Valley remains tense. Clashes between protestors and police and CRPF forces were reported from across the Valley, with forces being accused of brutality and “shooting to kill”. Close to 50 protestors have lost their lives in the last three weeks.

Pellet firing continues

Pellet guns, used by forces to control crowds in Kashmir since 2010, have come under severe criticism. Yet, new cases of pellet injuries continue to flood Srinagar hospitals, Hindustan Times reported. According to hospital data accessed by them, at least 50 new patients have come in with pellet injuries in the last four days.

Authorities at Srinagar SMHS hospital, where most injured protestors have been going for treatment, said 42 people were brought in with pellet injuries on Tuesday and at least five more on Wednesday. Other hospitals also reported cases of pellet injuries in the last few days. In SMHS alone, 531 cases of pellet injuries have been treated since the turmoil first began.

On Tuesday, a young boy with a disability was reported to be one of the victims of pellet firing.

This is despite union home minister Rajnath Singh appealing to security forces to discontinue the use of pellets a few days ago. CRPF director general K. Durga Prasad had also expressed regret over the innumerable reports of pellet-caused injuries in the Valley.

Though officially a “non-lethal” weapon, pellet guns have led to severe injuries and caused blindness in numerous civilians after they were hit in the eye.

Mehbooba Mufti makes public appearance, says ‘sacrifice of children won’t go to waste’

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti made her first public appearance since the clashes began on Thursday. Referring to all the young protestors who had lost their lives in clashes with security forces, she said she “won’t let their sacrifice go to waste,” Indian Express reported.

“The sacrifice of these people, these children, the innocent children, should not go waste. An atmosphere should be created, of reconciliation and accountability as had happened during (former Prime Minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee’s time when an era of dialogue had started, a good atmosphere was created and a ceasefire was implemented with Pakistan,” she said.

Mufti also said that security forces involved in the encounter were not aware that Wani was one of the militants they were targeting.

“As far as I know, what I heard from the police and the army, who said they only knew that there were three militants inside the house but did not know who they were,” PTI quoted her as saying.

The chief minister told reporters that if the security forces had known about Wani’s presence inside the house in Kokernag area of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, it would have been possible to keep the situation “from turning to what it is today”. “I feel if they knew, perhaps we would not have such a situation when the overall situation in the state was improving, so it could have been a chance,” she said.

“When Afzal Guru was hanged, (then chief minister) Omar (Abdullah) knew, so he made all the arrangements beforehand. We knew nothing and we came to know suddenly. But, despite that, we tried to impose curfew so that children do not come out,” she added.

Abdullah, responding to this claim, has said that Mufti was “fully informed” about the encounter. “I’m going by the first on record statement by Jammu and Kashmir Police to the media that the CM (chief minister) was kept fully informed of the encounter. At no point in the first Jammu and Kashmir Police media briefing was it ever suggested that they did not know who was trapped,” Abdullah said on Twitter.

Mehbooba said an atmosphere should be created in the state for peace dialogue and the government would do “everything” to provide relief to the people affected by the violence. “An atmosphere should be created in Jammu and Kashmir where there is dialogue, transparency like in (former Prime Minister Atal Behari) Vajpayee’s time, when a peace process was started and there was ceasefire with Pakistan,” she said.

On the use of pellet-guns, Mehbooba said the union home minister had said the government would seriously rethink its use as a crowd-control measure.

The chief minister also said there “some elements” were deliberately creating trouble in the Valley. “Today is the foundation day of our party – the PDP – and the main aim of forming the party was to have reconciliation in Jammu and Kashmir, better relations between countries, to have dialogue, creation of peace, movement of people (across the borders) and to remove the difficulties of the people. But unfortunately, there are some elements, who were waiting for the spring, for the tourism and development to start and then to do something to create trouble and worsen the situation to have strikes,” she said.

She said that the people of Kashmir have understood that they have gained nothing from strikes. “I feel people understand that many youth have lost their lives in the past 30 years, there have been strikes and curfews, so many buildings have been burnt, but a Kashmiri has not gained anything except the opening of Muzaffarabad road in (her father and former chief minister) Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s time,” she said.

“Today, the alliance that we have with the BJP, it is the same peace process which began with Sayeed and Vajpayee to improve the situation in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.

(with PTI inputs)