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Ignoring the spate of curfews and strikes, an apparent repercussion of Afzal Guru’s hanging, the Fidayeen attack in Bemina is being used to blunt any debate on AFSPA revocation or the idea to offer space to dissenting voices in Kashmir. As the Vale is passing through trying times, New Delhi has started talking about ‘packages,’ again, a Kashmir Life report.

Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Since February 9, when Afzal Guru was hanged, a new chain of events has overtaken Kashmir. While the valley remained boiling over the intermittent killings – first in Hyderabad and then in Baramulla, this time it was a Fidayeen attack that is attempting to alter the way people looked at Kashmir.

On Wednesday, it was a Muslim Majlis-e-Mashawarat (MMM) sponsored strike and there was no report of any untoward incident anywhere when a shootout was reported in Bemina. The Jammu and Kashmir police and home ministry in Delhi termed it a Fidayeen attack. At least two young men had reported to the spot on the outskirts of Srinagar city, pretending as if they had come to play cricket in the sprawling grounds of the Police Public school. They were carrying a bag used for transporting cricket bats, wickets, leg-guards, and gloves. They got into the premises and mingled with boys playing in the field of the school that was closed because of strike. After some time, they opened the bag and start arming themselves.

It was at that point that a CRPF posse sitting in a corner detected the duo. Some of them were in chairs and a few actually sitting on ground, resting. Well before they could make out anything, the suspected militants lobbed a grenade towards them and followed it with firing indiscriminately at the forces. It was this attack that led to casualties – five dead and seven injured, besides three civilians. The firing invited the attention of the forces guarding the housing colony of the CRPF. They came out and shot dead the militant duo, whose identity is still not known.

These paramilitary and Jammu and Kashmir police personnel were the real game changers in the entire event. Had they not acted, the militant duo might have barged into the residential quarters. They were neutralized well before they could storm the quarters. This was the first Fidayeen attack in Srinagar after around 37 months. The last such attack was carried out by militants in Lal Chowk when they jumped into a hotel to keep the story ‘live’ for many days.

Pic: Bilal Bahadur

This attack followed one killing in south Kashmir and preceded another in Srinagar, not far away from the spot of the attack. Reyaz Ahmad Khanday, a resident of Matipora, was seriously injured when his load carrier was allegedly attacked by stone pelters. His family members said Khanday was on way home after dropping the willow sapling load in Mattan when he was attacked. Khanday suffered severe fractures and was operated upon at the SKIMS hospital. But the doctors could not revive him. Khanday who had dropped out of school to help his parents, breathed his last at the hospital.

It was a tragedy that shook entire south Kashmir. Hundreds attended Khanday’s funeral and there was lot of sloganeering. Police acted quite fast and arrested four youth. They were booked for murder. Hunt is on for two more boys. The killing was widely condemned.

Within an hour after the Fidayeen attack, a few vehicles carrying CRPF personnel were on their way to SKIMS. They received a few stones and while they passed Zoonimar, they opened fire at Altaf Ahmad Wani, who was crossing the deserted road along with his uncle. Two bullets were fired and both hit the chest of Altaf who was father of three girls and the lone breadwinner for his family that included his aged parents. When Wani reached the hospital, he was not even considered for an operation. He suffered two cardiac arrests within minutes and doctors were somehow managing to stabilize him. He was declared dead within minutes.

Police dubbed him a stone pelter and the hospital was suggested not to handover the corpse – given the policy that the dead bodies of those injured in such incidents are put on ventilators in the larger interest of law and order. But a huge gathering of the locality barged into the hospital and took away the dead body home. Wani was a close associate of Speaker Mubarak Gul and a second generation NC activist.

Police was quick to react. It ensured that the angry CRPF men do not open fire in Bemina when a small stone pelting incident followed the encounter. The investigations into the Bemina attack have led to the arrest of a former militant, a resident of Uri, who in turn led to another arrest, reportedly of a foreigner. Same is the case in Islamabad case in which it arrested the alleged accused in the case. But there has been inaction in the Saidpora killing, even though it was proved beyond every shred of doubt that Wani was no stone pelter.

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