|A JKLF member at a protest in Srinagar on Monday. (PTI)
Srinagar, Feb. 11: Three persons, including a teenage boy, have died since yesterday in the Valley from alleged action by security forces against mobs protesting Afzal Guru’s execution, escalating the Omar Abdullah government’s worries.
The deaths came amid curfew that remained in force for the third consecutive day along with an information blackout through suspension of news channels and the Internet. Newspapers, too, could not hit stands for the second day.
The Valley’s mainstream parties continued to criticise the Centre for hanging Afzal. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the patriarch of the Opposition People’s Democratic Party, said “Mahatma Gandhi’s country was looking like a banana republic” after having denied Afzal’s family a last meeting and later refusing to give them the body.
The civilian casualties came despite chief minister Omar’s assertions that he had directed security forces to exercise “maximum restraint”.
Police said Ubaid Ahmad Rather, a teenager from north Kashmir’s Baramulla, succumbed to his injuries in hospital today. He was among five persons allegedly fired at yesterday by security forces as they tried to control hundreds of protesters.
Zameer Ahmad Dar and Tariq Ahmad Bhat drowned in Bandipore after a boat they were in was allegedly chased by security forces. Residents said the duo were part of protests against Afzal’s hanging and alleged their boat capsized while being chased by the forces.
Tariq’s body was retrieved yesterday, Zameer’s today. A massive procession preceded Zameer’s funeral today.
A police spokesperson denied the allegations about a chase and suggested that the duo’s boat had capsized on its own. “He (Zameer) was reported to be one of the persons in the boat.”
The officer said the day was largely “peaceful” barring some incidents of stone pelting in which two cops were injured. “The situation is under control.”
But more restrictions were in place today in view of the 29th death anniversary of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) founder Maqbool Bhat who, like Afzal, was hanged in Tihar.
The curbs were particularly severe in Srinagar’s Maisuma locality, which houses the JKLF’s main office. Its leaders reiterated their call for the return of the mortal remains of Bhat, who was also buried in Tihar after his 1984 execution.
Scores have been injured in clashes with security forces in the past few days. Police and paramilitary forces have been deployed in strength to maintain order. Concertina wire barricades have been erected on roads across the Valley to stop movement. Police sources said more CRPF personnel have reached Srinagar.
Sources in the separatist camp said raids were conducted on the homes of several leaders and many had been taken into custody. But they did not include top figures like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, all of whom are outside the Valley.