Geelani asks GOC 15 Corps to vacate Kashmir; cop gunned down near IAF base
Curfew in Srinagar, Pampore, Pulwama, Anantnag; shutdown in entire Valley as death toll reaches 70 on 50th day of turbulence
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Aug 27: Inspite of his pressing domestic commitment---marriage ceremony of a grandson and three granddaughters, which went on modestly---separatist hardliner and Chairman of a faction of Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Saturday asked General Officer Commanding 15 Corps Lt Gen Satish Dua to vacate Kashmir, even as suspected militants gunned down a constable of Pulwama District Police close to the Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Awantipore area of South Kashmir.
According to the shutdown calendar issued on Wednesday, Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik had the programme of leading a mass march to Badami Bagh cantonment on Saturday to deliver a letter to the Corps Commander---asking him and Army to “vacate” Kashmir. Authorities had accordingly enforced strict curfew in the summer capital and put up concertina wire barriers on roads at different places and blocked all the streets leading toward Batwara.
As exclusively reported in this newspaper, Mirwaiz had been arrested and lodged in a hut, designated as sub jail, at Cheshma Shahi, close to Raj Bhawan on Friday night. JKLF Chairman Malik has been in a jail for the last several weeks. As Geelani emerged out of his Hyderpora residence with a letter addressed to the Corps Commander in his hand, he was taken into custody by Budgam Police and whisked away for a day’s detention to Humhama Police Post. Officials said he was later let off.
While addressing a gathering of his followers at Hyderpora before boarding a Police vehicle, Geelani said that India had no legal right to retain occupation of Jammu and Kashmir as, according to him, it was “a disputed territory and an unfinished agenda of the UN Security Council”. He said that the Kashmiris were treating the Indian people, including the armed forces personnel, as their brothers, despite being “victims of untold atrocities”. He claimed that the Kashmiris’ fight was only with the Government of India.
“In 2009 we started the campaign of demilitarization “Fuji Inkhilah” and in 2010 we intensified this campaign by a common and famous slogan “Go India Go Back”. Massarat Aalam is still languishing in jail for actively participating and galvanizing this campaign. Today also very politely and humbly we request these armed forces that you have failed to win our hearts for the last 70 long years and you will never be able to do so in future”, Geelani said.
Geelani added that right to self-determination had been promised by none other than the first Prime Minister of India Jawahar Lal Nehru not only in Indian Parliament in 1952, but in Kashmir’s historical Lal Chowk in front of lakhs of people. “He at that time said that this is a commitment not only with Kashmiris but to the whole world that we will allow the people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide their future on their own as we don’t believe in forced marriages”, he added.
Earlier, unidentified militants shot dead selection grade Constable Khursheed Ahmad Ganai of Qoil, Pulwama, when he had moved out in his Santro reportedly to fetch milk for his family. He was gunned down in close vicinity of IAF’s Awantipore base which had been targeted by a crowd of separatists last fortnight.
In South Kashmir’s Sangam area, locals retrieved the body of a 24-year-old youth, Shahnawaz Khan s/o Iqbal Khan of Dadoo Marhama, Bijbehara. They claimed that he drowned in Jhelum and died after being chased in a crowd by Police and CRPF on Friday afternoon. According to them, three youths had jumped in the river. However, two of them managed to swim across to the other bank. Police spokesman did not issue any statement in reaction to the residents’ allegation that Ganai had been chased and forced to drown.
Reports said that a large number of people attended Gannai’s funeral prayers, back to back four times, amid pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans. With this, death toll in the 50-day-long turbulence, triggered by militant Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8, has reached 70. It includes three Police personnel.
While as curfew remained in force in Srinagar, Pulwama, Pampore and Anantnag towns, separatists-sponsored shutdown continued on the 50th consecutive day in entire Kashmir valley. Traffic was off the road and all shops and private offices closed. Some government offices were open but attendance was skeletal.
Clashes between the separatist crowds and Police/CRPF occurred at over 20 places across Valley. Reports of routine clashes poured in from Papchhan, Potshai, Nikus, Aripal, Nowgam Chowk, Wanbal, Imam Sahab, Bugam (Kulgam) and some other places. Over 50 people were estimated to be injured. Reports said that peaceful demonstrations were also held at more than six places.
The largest gathering on Saturday was reported from Bugam where around 10,000 people waved Pakistani flags, shouted pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans. Separatist leader Mohammad Yusuf Falahi addressed the gathering. Another thick crowd held up similar demonstration at a school building at Khanpora Yaripora in Kulgam. Reports said that a gathering of around 3,000 people held a similar demonstration in Rajpora area of Pulwama district.
Official sources said that 12 persons sustained injuries when some people clashed with Police in Bugam. Two of them with pellet injuries were rushed to Srinagar and admitted at SMHS Hospital. Around a dozen protesters were reportedly injured in similar clash in Hanjivera Pattan.
Zonal Police Headquarters, Kashmir, said in a statement said that barring five incidents of stone pelting in Anantnag, Shopian and Bandipora, the overall situation remained peaceful and under control across Kashmir valley. “The stone pelting incidents were reported from Barbugh, Hillow, Kadgam in Shopian, Sangam in Anantnag and Watpora, Potshai in Bandipora”, a Police spokesman said.