Mehbooba visits victims’ families as tension prevails in Kashmir
Mehbooba reached out to the families of the victims in the hour of grief even as curfew-like restrictions continued in certain parts of Kashmir and mobile internet services were snapped throughout the Valley.
Meanwhile, mother of the 16-year-old girl, whose alleged molestation on Tuesday triggered the cycle of violence in Kashmir, claimed that her daughter was pressurised into giving a video statement denying she was molested and has approached court seeking an independent probe into the incident.
“We do not want police or Army, those who have done this, to inquire it,” she said.
As tension persisted, Mehbooba visited and consoled the family of 18-year-old Arif Hussain Dar who was killed yesterday when army opened fire to disperse stone-pelting mobs outside a camp in Nathnusa area of Kupwara, 100 kms from here.
She visited families of other deceased also. Five people have died since Tuesday in firing by security forces on protesters who were agitating against alleged molestation in Handwara town of Kupwara district.
“The Chief Minister met the kin of the victims who were killed since Tuesday in the district. She expressed solidarity with them and assured them that inquiry will be conducted and justice done,” said an official who was present.
Mehbooba flew to Kupwara to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation. She also chaired a meeting of local officers which was attended by Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, Minister for Rural Development Abdul Haq Khan, MLA Handwara Sajad Lone, Chief Secretary B R Sharma, DGP K Rajendra Kumar and senior Army officer.
She made it clear that no civilian should be harmed while security forces deal with law-and-order situations.
She said she had a telephonic conversation with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar late last evening and also met Northern Army Commander Lt Gen D S Hooda and told them that incidents like the ones at Handwara and Nathnusa are “unacceptable” and come as a major setback to the efforts of the state government in consolidating peace dividends in the state.
“I have told Gen Hooda to exercise maximum restraint while dealing with law-and-order situations,” she said, adding the Defence Minister has assured her of time-bound investigation into the unfortunate incidents that led to the death of civilians during protests at Handwara and Natnusa.
While interacting with the members of the civil society, the Chief Minister sought their cooperation in restoring peace and normalcy in the frontier district.
The Chief Minister said she wanted to be with the people at this hour, grasp the sequence of events that led to the circle of violence and the action taken by the law-enforcing authorities.
Mehbooba said she was deeply saddened by the series of unfortunate events which led to the death of four young boys and an old woman.
“I never dreamt of coming to Kupwara like this after taking over as the Chief Minister. It is most unfortunate,” she said. While being briefed about the prevailing situation, Mehbooba said the Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) should not remain a mere word but become a potent tool while dealing with law-and-order situations.
Meanwhile, strict restrictions were imposed in some areas in north Kashmir, including Kupwara and Handwara towns, to maintain law and order, a police official said.
He said restrictions also continued in some police station areas of Srinagar city as a precautionary measure.
The affected police station areas include Maharajgunj, Khanyar, Nowhatta, Rainawari, Safakadal and Maisuma, he said. The restrictions were imposed following death of three persons during protests against alleged molestation of a girl by a soldier in Handwara town on Tuesday.
Another youth was killed in Drugmulla area of Kupwara during protests against the Handwara incident a day after. In the fresh spate of violence on Friday, Dar was killed.
Mobile Internet services were completely snapped in the Valley to curb rumour-mongering, the official said.
Concerned over the situation, the Centre on Saturday decided to rush 3,600 additional paramilitary personnel to the Valley and asked the state government to ensure that there is no further loss of lives.
The strike called by separatist groups also affected life in the Valley, with shops, business establishments, private educational institutions and petrol pumps in most district headquarters