Srinagar/New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) Two more civilians, including a middle-aged woman, were killed in fresh firing by security forces in Kashmir on Monday with India squarely blaming Pakistan for the fresh unrest in the valley that has killed dozens in the days of widespread violent unrest.
A continuous curfew imposed 10 days ago, a shutdown called by separatist and a media lockdown by the government continued hitting the normal life in the restive valley.
Police sources told IANS that two fresh killings occurred in south Kashmir’s Qazigund area – known as the gateway of Kashmir – on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.
The sources said army personnel allegedly opened fire at stone-throwing mob who had blocked the road near the Chhurrath village in Qazigund, some 70 km from here. At least four persons were injured and two of them – Syeedah Akhtar, 45, and Showkat Ahmed, 26, – succumbed to their injuries in a hospital.
As the Kashmir Valley continues to be on the boil, the death toll in the unrest triggered by the July 8 killing of killing of 22-year-old of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani has mounted to 43.
Wani, with a huge fan following, was the social-media-savvy poster boy of new age militancy in Kashmir.
In New Delhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Parliament refuted the charges of use of excessive force on protesting civilians and stressed that on the contrary, the security forces had been asked to use maximum restraint and the least force.
Singh, as well as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, blamed Pakistan for the situation in Kashmir, and said Islamabad has never reconciled to Jammu and Kashmir being part of India.
Refuting Congress’ charge that the state government had mishandled or failed to handle the bloody unrest, Jaitley said: “Pakistan never reconciled the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India” and it would be wrong to think that the situation deteriorated because of anything else, but Pakistan supporting terrorism in the violence-ravaged state.
The Finance Minister said that in Jammu and Kashmir it was the battle between the country and Pakistan-sponsored separatist forces.
As the opposition decried the state and central governments’ role in handling the situation, media ban continued and no newspapers were published for the third day on Monday. The gag is expected to continue on Tuesday.
The information blackout has led to very little being reported from parts of the valley, particularly from south Kashmir which has been the worst hit in the turmoil. Most of the deaths in the current unrest have been from this region.
Authorities have imposed a blanket ban on newspapers, asking their editors and owners not to publish till July 19. Journalists fear that the ban may be extended till there is some “semblance” of normalcy on Kashmir streets.
All mobile phone services, including internet and call facilities, have been snapped across the valley. Limited call facility continued on post-paid cell phones provided by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).
Shops, businesses, banks, private and government offices remained closed. People complained of severe hardships due to security restrictions and separatist-called shutdown.
People, who have been restricted to their homes due the curfew and shutdown, complained of severe hardships. They say they have not been able to buy and stock essentials due to incessant restrictions.
Closure of the strategic Jammu-Srinagar National Highway for over a week has caused shortage of essential items. All supplies of essentials items are routed into the landlocked valley through this highway — the only road link that connects Kashmir with the rest of India.
A police spokesperson said incidents of stone pelting in at least a dozen place across the valley in which some persons and police and paramilitary troopers were injured.
Earlier, a ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker was seriously injured when his vehicle met with an accident following an alleged mob attack, also in Pulwama.
Mohammed Khalil Bandh was travelling from his home in Pulwama to Srinagar “in the dead of the night” when the accident occurred, a police spokesperson told IANS here, adding that there was “some confusion” about the incident.
“We don’t know if it was really a mob attack. We have a report that his vehicle was chased by an unruly mob, causing the accident. But another version says people gathered after his vehicle overturned,” said the police spokesperson.