| Mudasir (left) and her sister, Muzamil, cry while looking at a photograph of Gulam Nabi Dar, in Panzgam. (Reuters)
Panzgam, March 16 (Reuters): It was just another day in the life of Kashmir.
First, soldiers shot dead 45-year-old Gulam Nabi Dar, a civilian. Hours later, militants abducted and killed Dar’s neighbour, 65-year-old Abdul Gani Sofi, in Panzgam.
Dar and Sofi now lie buried in a snow-covered graveyard in the foothills. Not far away, the sound of grieving fills several mud houses as the women in their families beat their chests in mourning while tearful men chant prayers.
“Nobody can change our fate, we will continue to die like this,” Mudasir Nabi, Dar’s daughter, said as she looked at her father’s photograph and wiped tears with his phiran, a cape Kashmiris wear in winter.
“Human rights violations by security forces and militants continue, though there is little relief from violence,” said Aijaz Ahmad of Panzgam, 40 km south of Srinagar.
Authorities in Kashmir deny allegations of systematic human rights violations, although they admit isolated cases occur.
They say they investigate all reports and punish anyone found guilty. They have also ordered a probe into the deaths of Dar and Sofi earlier this month.
Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the People’s Democratic Party, said violence had declined since the new coalition government with the Congress came to power.
According to police bulletins, more than 700 people, including 400 militants, have been killed since Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was sworn in as chief minister on November 2. That compares with 940 deaths in the same period a year earlier.
“Our government is doing well,” Mehbooba said. “Seemingly, a tough odyssey. Four months is a little period to measure the distance. You can see a decline in violence.”
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, a former Union home minister, has pledged to look into human rights violations such as custodial killings and defer the implementation of the anti-terror legislation.
The chief minister had also promised to hold talks with the separatists to end their movement that has claimed more than 38,000 lives.
Many Kashmiris wanted a fresh start then, but already some state Opposition leaders and voters say the new government has not fulfilled its promises.
“Sayeed’s healing touch is meant to fool people. He has not been able to deliver and has not come up to his promises,” senior National Conference leader Ali Mohammad Sagar said, a view echoed by ordinary Kashmiris.
“They have not fulfilled their promises. Mufti promised a result-oriented dialogue with separatists. He has backtracked on election promises,” said Abdul Hamid, a car dealer. “The result is violence continues.”
The Centre had promised to hold talks with the people of Kashmir in the run-up to the Assembly polls last September and October, but so far no progress has been made.
“You cannot bring peace in Kashmir unless militancy stops and you talk to Pakistan,” said Mohammad Shafi, a newly elected lawmaker in the state.
“When India, such a big country, was not able to establish peace in the last 13 years, how can we expect that from Mufti Sayeed in just four months'” he asked.