Kashmir continues to seethe on 50th day of unrest
Srinagar: Curfew and restrictions continued for the 50th day across the Kashmir Valley on Saturday with no let up in separatist-called shutdown as the death toll rose to 71 after the body of a man, allegedly chased by security forces during a stone-pelting protest a day ago, was fished out from Jhelum river.
Residents said the body of Shahnawaz Khan, 24, was retrieved from the river near Sangam village in south Kashmir’s Bijbehara area – the home town of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Khan, of Dadoo Marhama also in Bijbehara, was one of three men who had jumped in the Jhelum to escape from being caught by police and security forces chasing protesters on Friday evening, the residents claimed.
The other two are believed to have swum across safely.
A CRPF spokesperson told the media here that the security forces were “supposed to chase (protesters) when there is a stone-pelting mob”.
He said nobody was pushed into the river. “They jumped on their own and it is for them to see whether they could swim or not.”
A large number of mourners on Saturday blocked the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway squatting on the road with Khan’s body, shouting anti-government and pro-freedom slogans.
Saturday marked the 50th day of curfew and shutdown that have crippled normal life across Kashmir.
All education institutes, shops, transport and other businesses have not opened in seven weeks. Some markets have been functioning in the interiors of Srinagar and other cities and towns for a few hours in the evenings.
The youth’s death in Bijbehra took the toll to 71 in the unending cycle of violence triggered by the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
Over 11,000 persons — including 7,000 civilians and 4,000 security personnel — have been injured in the deadliest unrest the Kashmir Valley has seen in six years.
Police said the curfew would continue on Saturday in parts of Srinagar and other areas of north and south Kashmir. Restriction on the assembly of four or more persons will remain in force in the rest of the valley, a police officer said.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were detained on Friday when they defied restrictions and came out to join a separatist-called march in the city which was foiled by the security forces.
While Geelani was released, official sources said the Mirwaiz has been arrested and lodged in a a jail.
The government blames separatist leaders for provoking youth to protest and attack security forces and their camps and pickets with stones.
Suspected militants killed a police constable, Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, in a south Kashmir village on Saturday morning when he was leaving for duty.
A police spokesman said the cop was leaving for District Police Lines in Pulwama when unidentfied gunmen shot him dead from close range.