Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday visited curfew-bound Handwara town to take stock of the situation even as the central government has decided to send more paramilitary forces to the state – on the boil for four days over civilian killings by security forces.
Mehbooba Mufti was accompanied by state Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, Chief Secretary B.R. Sharma and Director General of Police (DGP) K. Rajendra Kumar. She met relatives of the youths killed on Tuesday in the security force firing in Handwara.
Five civilians have been killed in five-day long violence in north Kashmir Kupwara district since Tuesday in security force firing.
Her visit to Handwara comes as restrictions imposed by authorities and the protest shutdown called by separatists continued in Srinagar for the fourth day.
Meanwhile, the mother of the young girl allegedly molested by a soldier in Handwara town, the incident that triggered the violent protests in the Valley, on Saturday approached the state high court maintaining that her daughter was being held in “unlawful confinement” by the state police.
The chief minister, meeting with relatives of the killed youths, expressed condolences and asserted that the state government would ensure that anybody found guilty of having violated the standard operating procedure (SOP) during Tuesday’s incident would face the process of law.
“I had wanted to visit Kupwara with a special economic package, but it is unfortunate that I had to come to console the bereaved families,” Mehbooba Mufti said.
She also promised ex gratia relief to the next of kin of the slain youth.
Authorities had enforced curfew restrictions strictly in the town during the chief minister’s visit. She interacted with relatives of the victims and senior officials of the district administration at the Kupwara Dak Bungalow in the town.
In New Delhi, union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi in a meeting of senior officials from the Intelligence Bureau, ministry of defence, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and the ministry of home affairs reviewed the situation in the Valley and assessed the requirements of the Jammu and Kashmir government to bring the situation under control without any more loss of life.
“The central government is concerned over the loss of human lives in J&K during the last four days. It was decided to send additional Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to strengthen the security grid in the Kashmir Valley,” a home ministry statement said.
The statement said the ministry has assured “full cooperation and support to the government of J&K to ensure that there is no further loss of lives”.
The statement also said the development package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Kashmir in November last year “is being expeditiously implemented for the overall development of Jammu and Kashmir, which will generate employment for the local youth and bring overall prosperity in the State”.
On Friday, protesters attacked the Natnusa camp of the counter insurgency Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in Kupwara.
Soldiers at the camp fired at the protesters who army said had tried to enter the camp.
One teenager was killed in the Natnusa firing incident while three others were injured.
Police said 60 people were injured in violence in the Valley on Friday of whom 40 were security personnel while 20 were stone pelting protesters.
Fearing escalation of violence, authorities imposed restrictions in Handwara, Kupwara, Baramulla and Pulwama towns in addition to areas falling under the jurisdiction of seven police station areas in Srinagar on Saturday.
In Srinagar city, some skeletal private transport and three-wheelers were seen moving in the civil lines and outskirts areas.
Some shops also opened in civil lines and outskirts areas of Srinagar city where locals were seen buying essentials.
Restrictions imposed by the authorities and the protest shutdown called by the separatists continued in Srinagar for the fourth day Saturday.
Train services between the Valley and Banihal town also remained suspended for the fourth day while board of school education and the University of Kashmir postponed all exams scheduled for the day.
Meanwhile, the mother of the girl allegedly molested by a soldier told the state high court that her daughter was being held in ‘unlawful confinement’ by the state police.
The girl’s mother has also alleged that the statement attributed to her daughter in which she said there had been no molestation attempt on her had been obtained by police ‘under coercion’.
The state high court has directed the state police to come up with its reply quoting the provisions of law under which they were holding the girl in custody.
The high court also ordered that the police will not record any statement of the young girl till April 20 and she be produced before the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) Kupwara on that day where her statement will be recorded by the CJM in camera.