South Kashmir is still simmering with anger and fresh shutdowns were witnessed in the region, especially in Shopian and Pulwama, after the recent killing of seven civilians by the security forces. The forces also shot two girls allegedly from a close range, after they tried to give cover to militants. Both girls are critically injured.
When this reporter travelled through Jablipora, Arwani, Yaripora and Frisal villages of Bijbehara, and later through the most militant-infested area Zainapora of Shopian district, he found numerous drop-gates created by teenagers with the intent of paralysing normal life. The youths said they would not stop until the “guilty soldiers” are punished. The most disturbing trend in these villages is the growing willingness of the locals to help the militants to break the Army cordons. “The village elders approve of the teenagers stone-pelting the police and security vehicles,” admitted one Ali Muhammad of Arwani village.
In the latest incident in Shopian, while a gun battle was going on between the Army and two local militants, girls and women tried to give the latter a cover. Both militants were killed. The locals alleged that the Army also opened fire on the girls and women. Two girls received bullet injuries and one youth was killed on the spot. It was followed by another tragic incident in which the Army opened fire on a group of protesting youths, killing two. This was followed by the death of a minor, Musharraf Fayaz, who was injured by a live shell left by the Army at the encounter site.
“We support them (militants), they are real brave-hearts. We have provided them all support as there is good coordination among hundreds of mosques in Shopian and Pulwama,” said Abdul Kareem, a former sarpanch and active member of the opposition National Conference. Bijbehara area of south Kashmir, the hometown of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, is the starting point of the “war zone” of south Kashmir. Right from Bijbehara upto Zainpora, protests are going on. In about a dozen of villages visited by this reporter in Zainapora belt of Shopian, there was anger and a growing tendency among the teenagers to pelt stones on Army convoys. “These boys pelt stones on any police or security vehicle and flee to nearby villages. This is a routine exercise in our area,” said Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din, a village elder. The villagers contested every claim of the police and the Army on militancy related incidents.
Villagers at Batengo, Zaripora and Wuranhal villages near Khanabal, Anantnag, told this reporter how, after Burhan Wani’s killing, they saved dozens of tourists who were on the road with smashed vehicles, crying for help. “We accommodated them for the night in our homes in three villages. We escorted them to Srinagar-Jammu highway during the dead of the night when protesters were not going on. We still get their phone calls and good wishes on occasions,” said Wali Muhammad Yatoo of Zaripora village.