Unidentified gunmen abducted and later killed two sisters in north Kashmir’s Sopore town early this week. Arifa and Akhter were killed at Takia Bal after being abducted from their house in Muslim Peer locality. Family members told newsmen that three gunmen barged into their house and asked for the sisters. Despite the family’s resistance, the gunmen took girls along, and killed them within less than half an hour of abducting them. ‘
Police blamed militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba for the killings. Lashkar denied the allegation.
As soon as the news of killings came out, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah condemned the killers, and pulled up the separatists for not condemning the killing.
“I think this in itself brings out the contradictions that exist in Kashmir because if there was even the slightest of indication that these deaths have been the result of high handedness of forces, the whole Valley would have erupted in flames. But because these killings were by the militants, the condemnation is muted or the condemnation does not come at all,” Abdullah said.
Taking a dig a separatist leaders Abdullah said, “If you can’t condemn the killing of these two girls, irrespective of your political beliefs and do so without qualifying it, then shame on you.”
Abdullah may not have expected the wave of condemnations that followed from the separatist camp. From the moderate camp of Hurriyat Conference to Hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah everyone condemned the killing. Geelani went on to call for protests in Sopore where authorities clamped an undeclared curfew in some areas to prevent any trouble.
In a statement issued from Delhi, Geelani shifted the blame on state agencies.
Geelani said Sopore had always suffered for their unwavering commitment to the Kashmir struggle, being the first targets of anti-movement forces.
“While innumerable government agents have planted themselves in the town, there is also a presence of elements with a diseased mentality who foster various kinds of prejudices and hatreds,” he said.
Muzaffarabad based United Jehad Council also condemned the killings and blamed state agencies for act. The group blamed by police, Lashkar-e-Toiba, also denied its involvement.
Apart from the condemnation from various quarters, protests were also held in Srinagar and Sopore as well. In Srinagar a group of women assembled in Lal Chowk and held placards against the killing.
As separatists and the government condemned and blamed each other, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who was on a two day visit to state, asked the police to speedily track the killers of the two sisters.
Separatist turned unionist politician Sajjad Gani Lone, who was among the first to condemn the killing and describe it as barbaric, later remarked on the blame game between separatists and government.
“Two girls are brutally murdered in Kashmir. Basic human instinct is to mourn. Out here it seems to be keeping a score card of condemnations,” Sajad said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
In another tweet Sajad remarked, “mourners mumbling and fumbling on whether to mourn the murder, mumbling fumbling mourners need to be mourned not the murder – I say”
As people’s revolutions across the world are catalysed by social networking sites like Facebook, security agencies in Kashmir are not ignoring the site. Facebook has emerged as powerful tool of communication and expression of dissent among Kashmiri youth, especially during the unrest in last few years. Although in some cases, police has questioned some netizens in Kashmir for their posts on Facebook and even arrested some, social media had rarely been described as a threat openly by the government or security agencies.
This week, however, GOC of the Badami Bagh based 15 Corps, Lt Gen S A Hassnain expressed concern over the social networking sites.
Hassnain said the sites were used to unleash propaganda against the security forces in the Kashmir Valley.
“Facebook and other social networking sites are being used as a tool of propaganda against the Army and other security agencies by elements hell-bent on disturbing peace in the Kashmir Valley,” Hassnain said.
Hassnain comments came at a time, when protestors in Egypt, reportedly using social networking sites to mobilize support, are threatening one of the most powerful dictatorships in the Arab world.
It seems that after tackling stone pelting protests, security grid is shifting its attention to Facebook threat. Interestingly, in 2009, it was the army which had described stone pelting and public protests in Kashmir as ‘agitational terrorism”, well before the state began to treat it like that.