Amid pro-freedom slogans, thousands of people participated in the funeral of Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Bashir Lashkari as Kashmir shut on Sunday over the killing of two civilians, allegedly by security forces during an encounter with militants in south Kashmir on Saturday.
Lashkari and his accomplice along with the two civilians – a woman and a youth – were killed on Saturday in the Brinty Dialgam area of Anantnag district.
Thousands of people on Sunday participated in the funeral prayers of Lashkari at his ancestral Soaf-shali village of Kokernag in Anantnag. They shouted slogans demanding freedom from Indian rule as they took his body to the graveyard for burial.
Reports in local news portals said that funeral prayers were also held on Saturday night even as some militants appeared on the scene and offered gun salutes as has become the norm in south Kashmir.
Meanwhile, businesses, shops and offices were closed while traffic was off the roads in capital Srinagar and other districts in response to the call of separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik.
Authorities imposed restrictions on the direction of District Magistrate Srinagar in major parts of the old city and some uptown areas. They said that restrictions under Section 144 of CrPC were in force in Nowhatta, MR Gunj, Rainawari, Khanyar, Safakadal, Maisuma and Kralkhud “as a precautionary measure, to avoid any untoward incident”.
The police and CRPF were heavily deployed in sensitive areas of the Valley to prevent any escalation of protests.
“The (government) forces are selectively killing our youth on one hand, on the other entire pro-freedom leadership has been caged, and we are not even allowed to express sympathy and solace with the bereaved families. The ruling regime has crossed all limits of repression and killings; imposition of curfews, restrictions and curbs has become an everyday affair in Kashmir,” the separatists said in a statement on Saturday.
Police said that Lashkari, a recycled militant carrying a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head, and his foreign accomplice Abu Maz were allegedly involved in the killing of six policemen including an SHO last month in Anantnag district.
Police said that a middle aged woman, Tahira, was allegedly killed in crossfire during the Saturday’s encounter, while a young man named Shahdab Ahmad was hit when the government forces were facing stone-pelters trying to disrupt the operation and help the militants escape. Four other youth were wounded in the clashes.
So far 22 civilians — mostly protesters — have been killed ostensibly in firing by forces since February 15 when army chief General Bipin Rawat warned of stern action against civilians trying to disrupt counter-insurgency operations.
The railway authorities have suspended train services from Srinagar to Baramulla in north Kashmir fearing violence during shutdown. Similarly, trains operating from central Kashmir to south Kashmir have also been cancelled.