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Killing of two policemen on Human Rights Day arouses wave of revulsion in Kashmir

The Director-General of Police, JandK Dilbag Singh accompanied by IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar visited Sopore and Kupwara to express solidarity with bereaved families of martyred police personnel (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@JmuKmrPolice)

The killing of two personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police in Bandipora in a terror attack on the World Human Rights Day on 10 December has evoked strong reactions across the valley.

At 5:15 pm on Friday, an unidentified gunman appeared at Gulshan Chowk at the district headquarters of Bandipora, in northern Kashmir, and fired volleys of fire on the unarmed driver of a Police vehicle, selection grade constable Mohammad Sultan Dar of Dangarpora, Sopore, and Personal Security Officer (PSO) of the Station House Officer, constable Fayaz Ahmad Lone of Lalpora, Sogam (Kupwara). Both died before reaching a local hospital for treatment.

Inspector General of Police, Vijay Kumar, maintained that a “lone Pakistani terrorist” had attacked the SHO’s escort vehicle and killed the two Policemen with the intention of snatching away their weapons. However, another PSO opened fire and the assassin failed to take away the weapons. He asserted that the assassin would be neutralised “very soon”.

A hub of militancy over 20 years back, Bandipora had remained by and large peaceful for several years until 8 July 2020 when a BJP leader, Waseem Bari, was gunned down in a terror strike along with his father and brother at his home. Only the township of Hajan in Bandipora district had witnessed some gruesome killings in 2017-18. The fatal attack on the two Policemen on Friday has sent shockwaves across the district.

A multitude of the people from several villages gathered at Dangarpora, the ancestral residential locality of the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who died in September this year, and participated in Sultan’s mourning and funeral rites. Reports of similar emotional scenes poured in from Lalpora Kupwara where hundreds of Fayaz’s neighbours and relatives assembled and gave him a tearful farewell.

As pictures and videos of the two bereaved families’ young children, including those of Sultan’s three-year-old son and niece, went viral in the social media, condemnation for the assassination poured in from different quarters. Sultan’s hysterical wife, the mother of four young children including 3-month-old twins Afan and Ehsan, is still failing to reconcile with the tragedy. “How can I live without my husband?”, she asks the mediapersons about Sultan, the sole bread-earner of the family. “Why did they kill him? What wrong had he done to them?” asks Sultan’s 85-year-old father.

Shops and business establishments remained shuttered in Dangarpora and Lalpora, in honour of the slain Policemen. Sultan and Fayaz are among nearly 1,800 personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police who have been killed in militant attacks and encounters in the last 32 years. Around 40 of them have died after the erstwhile State’s reorganisation into the two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in August 2019.

“What kind of a jihad is this? I too have done a course as Mufti for 16 years. Which scripture permits bloodletting of innocent, unarmed people?” says a local cleric, emphasising that Sultan was simply a driver in the Police, not a combatant. “He (Sultan) was the sole bread-earner of his family. The killers have made his whole family helpless and orphans. We must speak out against such brutal killings. This is martyrdom, not a murder”, says the cleric in a video that goes viral on a local news portal.

A pall of gloom descended on Kupwara’s Lalpora where constable Fayaz’s widowed life partner was heard crying: “He has been martyred. But who will now look after me and my four babies and my mother-in-law and my father-in-law?” With full honours, Fayaz’s mortal remains were covered in the tricolour over a coffin. Hundreds of people joined the funeral prayers with the Police officers even as a posse lowered guns for the martyr.

At a candle light tribute to the two Police martyrs in Srinagar, journalist-activist Yana Mir addresses the assassins, furiously: “These are all dastardly acts by you guys who call yourselves as freedom fighters. What kind of a freedom struggle is in the killing of innocent, unarmed civilians. You guys are a blot on the face of Kashmiri society. How do you kill the Policemen of your own society who sacrifice their lives to make us all safe?”

“Everybody must now speak out and call a spade a spade. This hypocrisy of unidentified gunmen must end. Everybody knows that these senseless killings are committed by those who claim to be fighting for Kashmir’s freedom but are actually cowards. They make everyone cry”, Yana Mir assails the militants.

Also Read: Why targeted killing of minorities will not return Kashmir to the darkness of 1990