Rage, as fresh killings rock Kashmir Valley

Srinagar, July 6 (Calcutta Tube) Security forces shot dead three protestors in different places here Tuesday as thousands took to the streets in waves after the death by drowning of a youth sparked a chain of events that shook the Kashmir Valley.

What started off as one mourning procession took an ugly turn by early evening as a woman, a male government employee and a 14-year-old boy were killed in firing in separate incidents, further fuelling the mob fury.

As authorities in Jammu and Kashmir and New Delhi contemplated on what to do, the police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were left battling with mostly young demonstrators on the streets and narrow lanes, openly egged on by the separatist Hurriyat Conference.

Today’s deaths took to 14 the number of civilians killed in firing by security forces in Srinagar since June 11 when the first such killing was reported.

The trigger for Tuesday’s violence was the drowning Monday of a teenager, Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, in Batamaloo in the city’s west.

The family and neighbours of Bhat, 17, alleged he was forced to jump into a stream when the CRPF were chasing a group of demonstrators opposed to a minister’s visit to the area.

Angry mourners taking out the funeral procession of Bhat stoned the CRPF men, who opened fire. A bullet hit government employee Fayaz Ahmad Wani, 30, in the neck, killing him.

The drowning and Wani’s death triggered a wave of anger.

More and more people now poured out of their homes shouting pro-freedom slogans and tried to carry the two bodies for burial at a common graveyard in the Eidgah prayer grounds in Old Srinagar where thousands, killed in the ongoing 20-year-old separatist war, are buried.

The police intercepted the mourners, fearing more violence.

But as the protests spread, women in Batamaloo came out on the streets and started shouting slogans against the government and security forces.

The troopers again opened fire. This time a woman, Fancy Jan, 25, was hit in the chest in Batamaloo and died in hospital.

Jan’s death led to more anger, more street protests and more clashes with security forces, who again fired, this time killing 14-year-old Abrar Ahmad. He died in Maisuma area.

The latest deaths led to unprecedented tension in Srinagar, the urban hub of the separatist campaign that has been under strict curfew in the wave of the violent protests and killings by security forces.

Tuesday’s protests forced a complete shutdown in Old Srinagar just when shops were beginning to open in the morning after day-long curfew Monday.

On Tuesday, a government vehicle was torched, over half a dozen security vehicles were stoned, and even the city’s police control room came under attack.

Banks, offices and businesses quickly closed down as news of the latest deaths spread like wildfire.

CRPF personnel baton charged some mediapersons, injuring five. Those injured include two photojournalists, Tauseef Mustafa of AFP and Farooq Javaid Khan of a local daily.

Moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq asked his supporters to continue with the peaceful protests. He led a demonstration of hundreds from his ancestral home in Rajouri Kadal in Old City to protest against alleged human rights violations in tha valley.

The fresh killings have dealt a severe blow to the peace initiatives of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who had started meeting civil society members in the areas hit by days of violence.

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