CRPF personnel pay tribute to their slain colleagues, who were killed on Wednesday in a militant attack in Srinagar, in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)
Srinagar, March 14: The Valley-based mainstream political parties have come under severe flak for their alleged selective criticism of the killings in Kashmir.
The CRPF jawans, too, voiced a rare public criticism of chief minister Omar Abdullah for skipping a wreath-laying ceremony of the five jawans killed in yesterday’s fidayeen attack.
Omar Abdullah and his National Conference and the Opposition People’s Democratic Party were criticised today for allegedly “glorifying terrorists”, vociferously condemning killings by security forces and expressing “little concern” over the deaths of jawans at the hands of militants. The insinuation was that these political parties are on the other side of the fence in the fight against militants.
The trigger for the fierce criticism was the death of the five CRPF jawans in a fidayeen attack in Srinagar yesterday. The militants had posed as cricketers and had caught the CRPF jawans unawares.
The CRPF killed a civilian while their vehicle was being stoned in what was described as “cold blooded murder” by the ruling National Conference, which demanded a judicial inquiry into the killing. The vehicle was ferrying back from hospital jawans who had donated blood for those injured in the attack.
Omar today did not join the CRPF’s official wreath-laying ceremony at the district police lines here but rushed to Srinagar airport later to pay respects to the slain jawans whose bodies were being flown to Delhi, apparently after he was criticised for it.
That prompted some CRPF jawans to voice a strong protest. “We die for our country but our lives have no worth. At least the honourable CM should have come here,” an angry jawan told journalists during the wreath-laying ceremony.
Another jawan said (Kashmir) politicians rush to join funerals of men killed in stone-throwing incidents but the same was not done when soldiers died. Others said they feel orphaned by the politicians’ behaviour.
More flak for Omar and Valley-based parties came in Jammu, where the Assembly is in session. Members of the BJP and the Jammu-based Panthers Party and Jammu State Morcha staged a walkout after deputy Speaker Sartaj Madni, who is from the PDP, did not allow a discussion on the death of the CRPF jawans.
That prompted Jammu-based groups to claim that Valley politicians express concern for terrorists, referring to an adjournment motion that was allowed by the Assembly to discuss the return of the body of Afzal Guru, the Parliament attack convict who was hanged in New Delhi.
The PDP yesterday announced the boycott of the remaining budget session to protest Union home minister Sushil Shinde’s refusal to hand over Afzal’s body to his family.
Several angry MLAs from Jammu raised slogans against the “anti-national legislators”. The BJP’s Jugal Kishore said the government’s intentions were not right.
“They are glorifying terrorists which is encouraging them to carry out their activities,” he said.
The BJP legislative party leader, Ashok Khajuri, said the National Conference and the PDP have been indulging in competitive separatist politics. “They are openly encouraging terror,” he said. Scores of BJP supporters also staged a protest outside the Assembly.
Omar’s close aide and National Conference provincial president Nasir Sogami said Omar’s absence at the wreath-laying ceremony was being unnecessarily blown out of proportion. “Omar sahib had already decided to pay his respect to the slain soldiers at the airport which he did. I don’t know why this criticism now,” he said.
Yesterday’s killings also appear to have divided the state on regional lines. While parties in Jammu raised the issue of the jawans’ killings, the state government clamped curfew in many parts of Kashmir today to prevent a backlash against the civilian death.
Omar is also battling criticism for his decision to arm around two thirds of the CRPF with lathis instead of guns, a decision following the death of 120 civilians at the hands of security forces during the 2010 summer unrest. “The main reason that caused the death of five jawans was that they were unarmed,” a CRPF jawan said.
“The directive not to carry weapons in dealing with protesters applies to the police as well. One third of the jawans are allowed to carry weapons and they form the second line of defence. This is done so that there are no civilian casualties and prevent a repeat of the 2010 agitation,” he said.
The police have arrested a man in Srinagar on suspicion that he is a militant and had links with the two fidayeen who disguised themselves as cricketers and killed five CRPF men on Wednesday.
A police officer identified the suspect, picked up during a raid on the city’s Chattabal neighbourhood, as Riyaz
alias Abu Talha.
Reports suggested he
may be a Pakistani but
officers were tight-lipped.“He is being questioned,”
an officer said.
Police sources said they had intelligence that two more suicide attackers may have entered Srinagar. They said one of yesterday’s
fidayeen may be Hilal Molvi,
a local Lashkar militant.
State police chief Ashok Prasad said the investigations had made “progress”. He said the arms and ammunition found on the two slain attackers yesterday had definitely come from across the border.
The haul includes two AK47s, five AK magazines, 60 AK bullets, two Chinese pistols, a grenade launcher and several grenades.
Our special correspondent