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The Valley and beyond

Taking the death toll to 43 with a woman injured in clashes between security forces and protestors in South Kashmir who succumbed at a hospital, the curfew in the valley continued for the twelfth day. She was injured in retaliatory firing yesterday after the protestors pelted stones at an Army vehicle in Qazigund and died on Tuesday morning.  Three other persons, including a woman, were killed and seven others injured in the incident. 

Army has expressed regret over the death of civilians. They have also ordered a probe into the incident. A defence spokesman said that the Army will provide all possible assistance to the bereaved families and to those injured in the unfortunate incident yesterday.  “The Army deeply regrets, the unfortunate loss of life in the incident at Churat, Qaziund where the troops were forced to open fire yesterday when a large mob turned violent, resorting to heavy stone pelting and attempted to snatch weapons from the soldiers,” the spokesman said. 

The Army also appealed to the people to maintain peace and refrain from attacking security forces or their vehicles. Some miscreants tried to snatch weapons from the security forces and tried to set ablaze the vehicles. Despite repeated warnings, the mob did not disperse and army opened fire in retaliation to move out from the spot. 

Curfew, meanwhile, remained in force across the 10 districts of the Valley as there was no sign of deadly clashes between protestors and security forces ending. The clashes had begun soon after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8. 

Normal life also remained paralysed due to separatist-sponsored strike which has now been extended till July 22. In a joint statement, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Mohammad Yasin Malik yesterday said the shutdown in the Valley will continue till July 22. However, they have announced a relaxation of half day from 2:00 pm onwards on July 21.

While mobile telephony and mobile Internet services also remained shut, newspapers failed to hit stands for the fourth day. However, amid the alleged clampdown on media in Kashmir, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said on Tuesday that Jammu and Kashmir government has told the Centre that there is no ban on publication of newspapers in the Valley. On the contrary, according to various sources, raids were carried out at press offices in the wee hours of Saturday. The the papers were seized and employees were chased in order to detain them.

The authorities carried out these acts in the absence of prior communication from their side telling news agencies to stop publishing the paper. This is unlike the curb on the telecommunication services. The police had earlier sent a communication to telecom companies that in view of the prevailing security scenario, internet services should be stopped. Subsequently, the mobile services were also stopped. Only BSNL network is currently in operation. However, a senior BSNL official said that they too have been asked to shut the service.

On Tuesday, the annual Amarnath Yatra suspended for the third time in the last 10 days due to the ongoing unrest in the Kashmir Valley following the killing of the Hizbul commander Burhan Wani.  “The yatra has once again been put on hold due to the ongoing unrest in the Valley that witnessed killing of two more persons in Qazigund area on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway,” a police officer said. The yatra was initially suspended on July 9 and resumed on July 11 amid tight security. It was stopped again on July 14 and restarted on July 16. 

In a brand new development, India’s endeavour to catch up with China’s aggressive military and infrastructure build-up across the border,  New Delhi is to deploy the T-72 tanks on the barren heights of Ladakh, according to a report in The Hindu.  After the Army’s desperate and futile bid to use tanks at those heights during the 1962 war with China, this is the first time that they are being deployed again at these freezing altitudes. Then six AMX-13 tanks were airlifted to Ladakh in AN-12 transport aircraft. But they failed to make any significant impact as the crew were not acclimatised to the environment and the tanks were not equipped to operate in the rarefied atmosphere. Though tanks are primarily meant for operations in the plains, the Indian military has adopted several unusual tactics to beef up its presence.  
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