- Three Special Police Officers, kidnapped and killed in Kashmir's Shopian
- Dialogue seems to be a distant dream now, says Mehbooba Mufti
- "Resign or else...," terrorists had threatened in a video earlier
The bodies of three policemen with multiple bullet wounds were found hours after they were kidnapped by terrorists who barged into their homes in south Kashmir early on Friday. A fourth policeman was freed with the "help of villagers", home ministry officials told NDTV.
The policemen, all Special Police Officers, were dragged out of their homes in Kapran village of Shopian days after Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists put out a video threatening to kill policemen unless they posted their resignations online. Their bodies were found in an orchard.
Police said the villagers had chased the terrorists to try and rescue the three but the terrorists fired warning shots in the air. The terrorists crossed a river and shot the policemen.
Soon after the killings, six policemen reportedly announced that they have resigned. Videos were allegedly posted on social media, claiming resignations. The home ministry denied the reports saying they are "based on false propaganda by mischievous element."
When the Hizbul video emerged on Tuesday, the home ministry had expressed worry about repercussions. The video surfaced a day after an Army jawan was shot dead by the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Television visuals today showed villagers and grieving family members carrying the bodies of the policemen back to the village.
"We have lost 3 of our brave colleagues in a barbaric terror strike. Our tribute to the 3 martyred Jawans - Nisar Ahmad, Firdous Kuchay & Kulwant Singh. We condemn this inhuman act and assure that all the culprits shall be dealt under law," the Kashmir police tweeted.
The home ministry sees the killings as desperate fight-back because of the centre's tough policy. "Terrorists are under pressure as they are not able to execute anything big. Protest politics and stone-pelting has come down. So they are taking out their frustration by targeting policemen in their houses," said a home ministry official.
But PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, who quit as chief minister after the ruling BJP ended its alliance with her, said the killings proved the central government's "muscular policy" was not working. "Clearly, with the rise in kidnapping of police personnel and their families, Centre's muscular policy is not working at all. Dialogue, the only way forward seems to be a distant dream for now," Ms Mufti tweeted.
"Three more policemen have lost their lives to militant bullets. Outrage, shock and condemnation will be expressed by all of us on expected lines. Unfortunately, it brings no solace to the families of the victims," said the PDP chief.
Three weeks ago, three policemen and eight relatives of police personnel were kidnapped by terrorists in south Kashmir. They were set free after the Jammu and Kashmir police released around a dozen family members of terrorists, including the father of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Riaz Naikoo. The swap provoked a huge controversy and was said to be one of the triggers for the abrupt exit of SP Vaid as state police chief.
The home ministry says in last two months, security forces have be able to break down much of the local support structure of terrorists. "They are getting alienated as villagers are not supporting these abductions so these are desperate measures," said an official.
The rise in kidnappings of security personnel comes as the state heads to local civic body polls and panchayat elections in October and November. While the PDP and National Conference have decided to stay away from the polls to protest what they call a threat to Article 35A of the Constitution, separatist groups have asked the "freedom-loving people" of Kashmir to observe a complete boycott.
Article 35A bars outsiders from acquiring land in Jammu and Kashmir.
The security of the candidates contesting in the local body polls has become a huge concern, say sources. Intelligence agencies have warned of increased violence during this period. The newly-appointed police chief of Jammu and Kashmir, Dilbag Singh on Monday, directed his officers to be fully prepared to ensure peaceful and smooth urban local bodies and panchayat polls in the state.