Oh October!

  • Abid Bashir
  • Publish Date: Nov 4 2018 8:41PM
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  • Updated Date: Nov 4 2018 8:41PM
Oh October!Photo: Mir Waseem/GK

Kashmir being a perpetually strife torn place over the past three decades now, killings, protests, shutdowns and curfews have been a permanent feature here. But this year’s October turned out to be one of the bloodiest months in the recent years in Kashmir that saw more than 50 killings—30 militants, 14 civilians and eight government forces personnel. Though there used to be a break or relative calm between one incident to another, the month saw back to back incidents of violence. September 27 broke the relative calm in Srinagar as a bag-maker fell to the bullets of government forces during a midnight cordon in Noorbagh area of Qamarwari. And since then, there has been no let up in the bloodshed.

On the same day, two Hizbul Mujahideen militants were killed in Chadoora area of central Budgam district, while a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant died in a gunfight in Qazigund area of southern Anantnag district. A Beacon official was killed in northern Kupwara district in an army ambush. About the Beacon official, the army said that he was asked to stop but didn’t. According to official figures—in October—at least 50 people were killed in Kashmir. These include 30 militants, 14 civilians and eight police and other security personnel. The slain civilians include two National Conference workers who were killed on October 5 by unidentified gunmen in Srinagar’s Habba Kadal locality, three days before the start of urban local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir on October 8. On October 6, a shopkeeper was killed by unidentified gunmen in Tujjar area of Sopore in northern Baramulla district. The 30-day period also saw killing of seven youth in a powerful explosion following a gunfight in Laroo village in southern Kulgam district that left three Jaish-e-Muhammad militants dead. The Valley also witnessed the tragic death of a seven-month pregnant woman in southern Pulwama district in a shootout.

Two scholars-turned militants Manan Wani and Sabzar Ahmad Sofi were also killed during this period, along with their two associates, in separate gunfights in Kupwara and Srinagar districts, respectively. This tumultuous period saw at least nine shutdown calls given by the Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik, against civilian and militant killings, while the government responded with stringent curbs on the movement of people in Srinagar’s Downtown and a crackdown on the resistance camp especially ahead of the ULB polls. Several resistance leaders continue to remain detained at their residences while some have, according to the police, been “taken into preventive custody.”

Additional director general of police (ADGP) law and order, Muneer Khan said the month of October saw well-coordinated anti-militancy operations across Kashmir. “We had very successful operations where there was no collateral damage,” he said. “The death of civilians at Laroo area of Kulgam was unfortunate incident as they entered into the site of encounter a few minutes after forces retrieved the bodies of three Jaish-e-Muhammad militants.” Kashmir range inspector general of police Swyam Prakash Pani, while commenting on the situation that prevailed in the month of October, said:  “We are doing our job in most professional manner. We are making all efforts to curb the (militant) recruitment and are handling it professionally. (Militant) recruitment has gone down to a large extent. We are also committed to tackling the militant violence.”

 

 

UNCERTAINTY CHOKES ECONOMY

 

The situation prevailing in Kashmir over the past one month has worried many. “We are worried about right to life, right to dignity and right to economy,” said noted industrialist and civil society activist Shakeel Qalandar. “Killing youth in Kashmir has become a full-fledged industry given the reward money being distributed by various security agencies,” he alleged. The situation in Kashmir, Qalander said, is very fragile. “Every single day business interruption results in losses up to Rs 1.25 crore.  In the past 30 years, Kashmir has suffered losses up to Rs 2,20,000 crore due to business interruptions caused by strikes and curfews.” Qalander said the situation in Kashmir has now reached to a point where “our entrepreneurs have started migrating to other parts of the world.” “Kashmir’s industrial growth has suffered a decline of 15 per cent over the past few years alone. There are huge layoffs taking place due to the prevailing uncertainty,” he said. “Kashmir is heading towards a disaster. People are feeling frustrated.” Qalandar however added “when there is no right to life, business becomes a secondary thing to think on.”

 

 

FREQUENT CLOSURE OF KASHMIR’S BIGGEST MOSQUE

 

Frequent curbs which also results in barring of congregational Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid Srinagar left the religious sentiment of lakhs of people across Kashmir hurt. This year, no congregational prayers were held at historic grand masjid for 16 consecutive Fridays, a move that evoked strong resentment from the Anjuman-e-Auqaf Jamia Masjid which termed frequent closure of the masjid as “direct interference into the religious affairs.”

“Jamia Masjid is a religious and spiritual centre for people who come from far off places to offer Friday prayers here,” said a spokesman of Anjuman-e-Auqaf that looks after management of the Masjid affairs. “If authorities continue to close the masjid for prayers, people will come out on roads.” Talking to the Kashmir Ink, Kashmir’s chief cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that people of Downtown deserve all applauds as they continue to “remain steadfast to the Kashmir struggle despite bearing the brunt of oppression, restrictions and curfews.”

 

 

TOURISM FALLS

 

The tourism sector that contributes substantially to Kashmir economy is also suffering immensely due to the prevailing situation, according to stake-holders. “Because of unending cycle of killings, there is no tourism in Kashmir,” said Siraj Ahmed, the convenor of Jammu and Kashmir Socio Economic Coordination Committee, an amalgam of 27 organisations including transporters, traders, hoteliers, horticulture, houseboat and others. He said tourism is a peace activity and when there is no peace in Kashmir, how can this activity take place. “Every single incident of killing sends a message of fear across India. In such circumstances who would come here? How can we expect tourists when there is a strike almost every alternate day followed by a curfew? There can be no tourism till this cycle of killings doesn’t stop,” he said. Siraj said that peace can only prevail when all stakeholders of Kashmir issue including Pakistan and India would sit and hammer out a solution to problems acceptable to all the parties. “Unfortunately, at present due to the prevailing situation, not a single sector, be it horticulture, floriculture or tourism, is able to grow,” he said.

 

 

CLOSURE OF SCHOOLS

 

The month of October saw frequent closure of schools and Universities “as a precautionary measures” by the authorities to prevent student protests in the wake of killing of two scholars turned militants—Manan Wani and Sabazar Ahmed Sofi. Figures suggest that schools, colleges and universities remained closed for at least 12 days in the month of October, taking toll on the education of children.

 

“Education has bore the brunt of frequent strikes and curfews. Our children are feeling choked as pressure mounts on them to complete the syllabus within a limited time. Out of 365 days a year, half of the year passes in curfews and strikes,” said Abrar Ahmed Sofi, who lives in Nowhatta area of downtown. “Every single day of strike mounts pressure on children as they have a huge syllabus to cover. They hardly get time for extracurricular activities, which is bad for them.”