Srinagar, June 16: Six mysterious killings within three weeks, three in the last three days, and after the latest burst of gunfire in a village on Monday, the silence in Sopore is deafening.
No one knows who’s doing it. The police have blamed it on militants, the victims’ families have accused Indian security agencies. And the residents, in response, are hitting out wildly, pulling down shutters — the third shutdown in a week — and throwing stones at security forces.
The sixth killing was witnessed in Mundji on the outskirts of Sopore, where two “clean-shaven” gunmen shot dead Ajaz Ahmad Reshi, a former Harkat-ul-Mujahideen militant, in front of other villagers.
This time, the villagers chased the gunmen who escaped behind a volley of shots fired in the air – in the frenzy, they even shot dead a dog that attacked them.
While all those killed had some ties to militant outfits or separatist hardliners, different narratives have emerged to explain the mystery behind the mayhem.
“We have got vital clues and are connecting the dots,” said Gareeb Das, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), North Kashmir. “We know those who are doing it but we want to collect proper evidence before exposing them,” he added. ”It was cold-blooded murder. The Indian agencies are behind it,” said Tariq Ahmad Bhat, whose brother Khursheed was killed in Bomai on Saturday. ”I saw my brother lying in a pool of blood. A few policemen, who were standing there, offered help. How could they dare kill someone in the presence of a police patrol?” he asked.
Sopore residents claim the killings started after a new outfit ‘Lashkar-e-Islam’ asked telecom operators to wind up their operations. Again, no one can say for sure. But such is the tension in Sopore that the J&K government and the separatists are rattled. On Monday, the two Hurriyat factions – led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq – and the Yasin Malik-led JKLF charted out a joint protest plan, calling for a shutdown on Wednesday and a march to Sopore on Friday.
A government spokesman, meanwhile, said Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had taken a “serious view” of the killings and ordered a “time-bound inquiry”. But behind the allegations, rumours and anger are the only facts available so far – the stories of the victims, and how and where they were killed: May 25, Rafiq Akbar Haji, 23: The commerce graduate was killed when gunmen targeted his employer, a BSNL franchisee, in Sopore, about 500m from the district police HQ, a Special Ops group camp and a CRPF camp. A resident of Pohru Peth in Kupwara, Rafiq was planning to move to Indore to obtain an M.Com degree. (Courtesy IE)
2015 Kashmir Despatch