Ten people were killed and nearly 200, including 96 security personnel, injured in violent clashes between mobs protesting the death of top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani and security forces in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed deep grief and agony over the death of youths during protests at various places in Kashmir Valley on Saturday and appealed for calm, even as authorities indicated curfew would be more strictly enforced on Sunday.
Defying prohibitory orders, a surging crowd of over 20,000 people on Saturday attended the burial of Wani in Tral town in Pulwama.
Shouting pro-Islam and pro-Azadi slogans, mourners appeared surcharged and youths raised slogans vowing to follow Wani’s path.
Wani, 21, a poster boy of militancy with thousands of followers on social media, was killed along with two associates in a gunfight with security forces in Bamdoora (Kokernag) village of Anantnag district on Friday.
The authorities, allowing the burial procedure, withdrew all security forces deployed around the ground to prevent clashes with the agitated people.
Meanwhile, mobile internet services were suspended throughout the Valley to prevent the spread of rumours.
Movement of pilgrims for the Amarnath Yatra was also suspended in view of the unrest and the pilgrims kept in transit and security forces camps. A decision on resuming the pilgrimage will be taken on Sunday, officials said. However, 15,684 pilgrims who had already reached the shrine had ‘darshan’ on Saturday.
The eight protesters killed on Saturday were identified as Aijaz Ahmed Thokru, a resident of Siligam in Anantnag, Yawar Manzoor Kondru of Anantnag, Khursheed Ahmed of Kulgam and Zubair Ahmed also of Kulgam, who was injured on Friday but succumbed to his injuries on Saturday, Adil Bashir of Dooru, Anantnag, Abdul Hamid Mochi of Arwami village in Anantnag, Shaukat Ahmed of Bijbehara and Mohammad Asif of Kukurnag.
All except Kondru who drowned in the Jhelum as security forces sought to disperse a violent mob were killed when security forces retaliated to attacks by violent mobs on police stations, mobile posts, security force pickets, police patrols and security force vehicles, the officials said.
Two more injured succumbed to injuries in hospital but were yet to be identified.
At least 96 security personnel were injured, said Additional Director general of Police, CID, S.M. Sahai and Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, S.J.M. Geelani at a press conference here.
Three policemen were missing, they said.
According to the officials, the mobs also burned down three police stations in south Kashmir as well as a tehsildar’s office in Tral and attacked private and public vehicles on the highway.
The administration also announced that all exams from school to university level had been postponed as well as the National Eligibility Test and interviews of the State Public Commission.
Separatists, including hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, moderate Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yasin Malik earlier called for a day’s strike to protest Wani’s killing. Later, they announced to continue their shutdown on Sunday and Monday too to protest the “killing spree by the Indian security forces”.
Lashkar-e Taiba militant outfit and Asiya Andrabi, the radical chief of women separatist outfit Dukhtaran-e-Milat, called for a three-day shutdown in the Kashmir valley.
Meanwhile, Mehbooba Mufti, urging for calm, sought people’s cooperation in restoration of normalcy in the Valley.
“Violence only brings miseries to the people and tragedies for the victim families,” she said and appealed people, especially the youth not to fall prey to the machinations of the vested interests, who play politics over the dead bodies of Kashmiris.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah voiced apprehension of a likely spurt in militancy in the Valley in the wake of Wani’s killing.
“Mark my words – Burhan’s ability to recruit in to militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media,” the National Conference leader said in a series of tweets.
He also asserted that Wani had become the new ‘icon’ for the disaffected community in the valley.
“After many years I hear slogans for “Azadi” resonate from the mosque in my uptown Srinagar locality. Kashmir’s disaffected got a new icon yesterday,” he said in another tweet.