Five civilian deaths in the past one week in the Shopian district of South Kashmir, followed by the war of words between the Opposition and the BJP, has brought protests and shutdowns back to Kashmir. 

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti acted promptly after the Army opened fire on a group of stone-throwing youths at a village in Shopian, killing two of them on the spot. Another youth, shot in the head, succumbed to his injuries later in the hospital. CM Mehbooba after being cornered by the Opposition in the Assembly, promised to take the probe into the firing incident to its logical conclusion. She telephoned Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who apparently told her that the Army commanders would be told to exercise restraint while dealing with protests in the Kashmir valley. 

Tragedy has struck a few families of the Shopian villages in the past one week as five youths including 10-year-old Musharraf Fayaz were killed. Seperatists have called for “Shopian Chalo” on Friday, with Mirwaiz appealing to the international community to break their silence over the death of innocent civilians in Kashmir. 

The Army is in no mood to oblige the state CM as they have filed a counter complaint with the state police, saying that they were provoked by a violent mob to open fire and they have not violated any standard operating procedure. Earlier, the state police filed an FIR against the Army for killing the youths and even named an Army major in the report. The Army filed a counter complaint after a political row erupted in J&K with the BJP’s state unit asking for the withdrawal of the FIR against the Army. The CM said in the Assembly that the FIR was filed against the Army after consultation with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. 

Shopian and Pulwama districts of South Kashmir are shut for the past nine days and the authorities have suspended internet services in these two restive districts for the past 10 days. Despite the deployment of additional paramilitary forces and other restrictions, protests and stone pelting incidents in various villages in these two districts are going on. 

Mufti, who is also J&K’s Home Minister, has been told by the police that the firing incidents in Shopian could have been avoided and the claims of the Army that they were provoked were not true. It is on the basis of this feedback that Mehbooba Mufti directed the filing not not only of an FIR against the Army but also naming the Army major 

The police has also summoned the Army major for questioning as they have been told to complete the probe as soon as possible. Apart from the police probe, Mehbooba Mufti has ordered a magisterial probe to be completed within two weeks to break the cycle of protests in South Kashmir. “We are on the brink of another unrest if such civilian deaths are not stopped. There is no faith left in the minds of the people about such probes. The Central government will have to tell the Army not to kill civilians,” these strong words have come from PDP lawmakers of South Kashmir after the incident.

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