Kashmir Update: Death Toll Rises to 55; Mehbooba Meets Rajnath; Opposition Questions Modi’s ‘Silence’

Curfew continues in Kashmir. Credit: PTI

Curfew continues in Kashmir. Credit: PTI

Srinagar/New Delhi: A young man injured during clashes on Friday succumbed to his injuries at a hospital in Srinagar on Monday morning. The death toll in the Valley is now at 55, while curfew continues in many areas in the wake of protests after the killing of Hizbul  Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani a month ago.

Amir Bashir Lone, a resident of South Kashmir’s Shopian district, succumbed to his injuries at SKIMS hospital this morning, a police official said. Lone received pellet injuries on his head during firing by security forces on Friday.

Many parts of Kashmir, including areas in Srinagar, continued to remain under curfew for the 31st day today. The official said that curfew remained in force in six police station areas of Srinagar – Nowhatta, Khanyar, Rainawari, Safakadal, Maharajgunj and Batamaloo – as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order.

A police official said curfew was also in force in two towns of Budgam district – Chadoora and Khansahib – and Anantnag town. Restrictions were in place in other areas of the Valley, he added.

“Restrictions on assembly of four or more people continue to remain in effect in rest of the Valley,” he said.

There were reports of army being called to maintain law and order in the Sopore township of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. However, a police spokesman denied it.

“The army has not been called in but it is patrolling the peripheries of the town,” the spokesman said.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti met union home minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi today to discuss the situation in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, normal life in the Valley remained affected for the 31st consecutive day due to restrictions imposed by the authorities and separatist sponsored strike. Schools, colleges, business establishments, petrol pumps and private offices remained closed and public transport is off the roads.

The attendance in government offices and banks was also thin, the official said.

Mobile internet services continued to remain off in the entire Valley. Outgoing facilities prepaid connections is also barred.

The separatist camp has extended the shutdown call in Kashmir till August 12.

Opposition in Rajya Sabha demands start of political process in Kashmir

Urging the Prime Minister to break his silence on the deteriorating situation in Kashmir, the opposition in Rajya Sabha led by the Congress on Monday demanded initiation of a political process to defuse the crisis that has led to an unprecedented 31 days of curfew across the Valley.

Opposition parties also demanded stopping the use of pellet guns on protesters, even as one member demanded withdrawal of AFPSA from the Kashmir Valley and withdrawal of the dominating presence of the army from civilian areas.

Raising the issue in Zero Hour after his notice under rule 267 seeking suspension of business to discuss the issue was disallowed, leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said no state in independent India had seen 30 days of continuous curfew that had paralysed the administration, shut down educational institutions and led to near zero attendance in government offices.

“In such circumstances, we want to awaken the government … We feel the government and the prime minister are watching the situation deteriorate like a silent spectator,” he said, adding he wanted to know why Modi has not spoken on the grave situation in Kashmir so far.

Hindustan ka Taj jal raha hai, par uski garmi Delhi tak nahi pahuchti (India’s crown is burning but the heat hasn’t yet reached Delhi),” Azad said.

Over 8,000 people, including security personnel, have been injured while 410 eye surgeries and 1,650 other surgeries were reported to have been done because of the use of pellet guns on protesters, he said.

Observing that 1,018 incidents have been reported, he said over 1,000 youth are in prison. “Please do not consider this as a law and order issue,” Azad told the government.

Citing social media comments on Modi not making any statement on the Kashmir unrest, he said people are eager to listen to his views on the situation.

He asked the prime minister to call an all-party meeting where political leaders can offer solutions and express their sympathy with the people of Kashmir. This should be followed up with an all-party delegation visiting Kashmir, the senior Congress leader added.

Expressing anguish and pain at the continuous 30-day curfew, general secretary of the CPI(M) Sitaram Yechury said there was nothing working in the Valley except armed forces. “More than 1,000 incidents of firing have happened. More than 8,000 are injured and 60 dead,” he said describing the use of pellet guns and “inhuman” and “criminal”.

Stating that even Israel does not use pellet guns against Palestinians, he said the situation cannot be solved by the law and order machinery. “Our remaining silent is deepening the alienation of the Kashmiris,” Yechury said, adding “we have heard the silence of the prime minister (on Kashmir). His silence is more eloquent than words.”

The prime minister’s silence is “sending a message that this government does not care,” he said, adding that an all-party delegation’s visit in 2010, when 120 people had died in stone pelting and retaliatory action by police, had helped assuage the feelings of the people there.

“Why can’t we do this now,” he asked and demanded that the prime minister should respond and start the process of dialogue.

Describing the situation in Kashmir as alarming, D. Raja of the CPI said to de-escalate the situation, the use of pellet guns should be stopped forthwith and AFPSA repealed.

“Government should initiate political process to win the minds of the people, win confidence of people,” Raja said.

Neeraj Shekhar of the Samajwadi Party said 60 youths have been killed in Kashmir, yet there was no statement from the home minister and prime minister on the issue.

Home minister Rajnath Singh, he said, went to Kashmir but could not meet everyone. He should have taken senior leaders of political parties on his visit.

Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal United said the silence of government on the issue was painful and demanded that the prime minister make a statement. “Iss issue par bhayanak shanti hai (there is dreadful silence on the issue),” he said.

Stating that the government is committed to peace and tranquility in Kashmir, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said there should be no doubts about the government’s commitment towards the state. The government, he said, was open to discussion on the Kashmir situation and it can be scheduled tomorrow or on Wednesday.

Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien said since the house wants the discussion today, “if possible, do it tomorrow.”

“Government has admitted readiness for discussion,” he told the members.