Defence Minister A K Antony on his two-day visit to surcharged Kashmir
As Defenc Minister A K Antony started his two-day visit to J&K, his first in last 18 months, Kashmir is making desperate attempts to prevent the repetition of 2010.
At the peak of the record tourist season, Kashmir is observing a strike against the killing of Hilal Ahmad Dar by army in Bandipore forests. Syed Ali Geelani, the inflexible separatist of Kashmir sponsored the strike.
Hilal’s controversial killing triggered a crisis in Kashmir as scores were injured in protests in last three days in Bandipore. Though the clashes between protestors and police are confined to Bandipore, the spill over has already cost a day long strike. On Friday, JKLF leader Yasin Malik was arrested to preempt his protest march to the UN military observer group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). There were protests in Handwara and Anantnag as well.
The killing that came amid the Vijay Divas celebrations proved an embarrassment for the armed forces. Initially they refused holding an in-house enquiry into the incident because they said they were sure the slain was a militant and was killed in a genuine encounter. However, after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah briefed the defence minister A K Antony and seriously questioned the army’s theory, the minister overruled the army and announced an investigation. State police have already registered a murder case and also announced an magisterial investigation.
Dar, a Tableghi activist, was a security guard with Khyber Cements in Srinagar and was on leave. He had gone for prayers to the mosque and was apparel caught when he was going to another village to attend a religious function. Tableghis are apolitical faithful who are more into the ritualistic Islam especially prayers. Hilal’s death triggered a serious law and order problem in Bandipore where villagers took his corpse to the main town in protest. It was buried only after the local administration pleaded with the protesting mobs.
Hilal’s killing is expected to be part of the discussion that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah will have with the visiting minister. Other talking points include the gradual withdrawal of AFSPA from comparatively calmer and safe places like Jammu, Srinagar, Budgam and Kathua.
Antony’s visit came at a time when court has permitted transfer of two major cases against the army – the Pathribal case and the Machil fake encounter case, to the court martial for trial. The two cases involve score odd officers from all ranks from brigadier downwards. On the day one of his visit, Antony has visited some forward positions where he interacted with the soldiers and presided over a meeting of the army. He will have another meeting of the unified headquarters that ha a representative from all the security, police and intelligence agency besides the stat government.
The death of two female tourists in an explosion that took place in their taxi car near Zuripora in Bejbehara had actually overshadowed Antony’s visit. Eight visitors from Mumbai were on their way to Srinagar from Pahalgam when the explosion took place Saturday afternoon. Of the six injured two are stated to be critical. Initially it was suggested that the explosion might be a grenade attack but later in the afternoon police said the deaths took place because of gas cylinder explosion. Injured were shifted to Srinagar and are being treated at SKIMS.