Uneasy calm in Kashmir a day after civilian killings

Uneasy calm in Kashmir a day after civilian killings

An uneasy calm prevailed in Kashmir as strike and restrictions affected normal life on Thursday, a day after four civilians were killed in security forces firing during an anti-militancy operation in Kulgam.

Following the fresh civilian killings, the Valley has been on edge with separatists calling for shutdown and authorities imposing curfew-like restrictions. The civilians, according to local media reports, died while saving three holed up Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in Khudwani area of Kulgam on Wednesday.

"Just as government forces were using an earthmover to search for bodies of three militants under the debris of burnt down houses they believed were killed during a long gun battle Wednesday, the militants appeared at Quimoh market on bikes performing stunts amid a jubilating crowd," Greater Kashmir, the largest circulated English daily in Kashmir reported.

"All the three militants trapped inside a military cordon had managed to escape with the help of protestors who had thronged the encounter site," it added.

Due to strike and restrictions, normal life remained paralysed in Kashmir with shops, business establishments, educational institutions and marketplaces remaining closed across the Valley and public transport thrown off the gear.

The authorities also suspended mobile Internet services in south Kashmir, a common government practice, aimed to calm tensions and prevent anti-India demonstrations from being organized. Intra-Kashmir train services remained suspended due to the apprehension of fresh violence.  

All examinations scheduled on Thursday were postponed by Kashmir University, Islamic University and Central University and Central University Kashmir. Authorities also ordered the closure of all educational institutions in the Valley.

Officials said no incident of fresh violence was reported on Monday. However, they said, Kulgam and neighbouring districts of Pulwama, Shopian and Anantnag remained on edge as funeral prayers in absentia for slain civilians were organised at several places in south Kashmir.  

"The situation remained under control during the day as police and security forces were to maintain law and order," a police official said and added restrictions under Section 144 of the CrPc were imposed in parts of Srinagar, Shopian and Kulgam districts.

The latest bout of unrest has started affecting the already low inflow of tourist into the Kashmir Valley. People associated with the tourism industry are expressing fears of losing their livelihood if things do not normalise in coming days.  

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti cancelled a cabinet meeting scheduled for Thursday in Jammu as she returned to take stock of the situation in the aftermath of the killings.

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