Srinagar: Kashmir is tense. Two more civilians, including a young boy, have died in firing by the CRPF on Monday and the Valley is seeing widespread and violent protests. The state government has now said the Army may be called in to control the situation.
However, security sources have told NDTV that they don't forsee this happening and that the situation should be under control by Tuesday. The sources also said that additional Central forces, and not the Army, were being inducted in Sopore and along the Srinagar-Baramulla-Sopore highway.
Sopore has seen the worst of violent clashes between frenzied protesters and security forces. This morning, a crowd had gathered for the funeral of a youth, 20-year-old Bilal Ahmad Wani, who was killed on Sunday, allegedly hit by a rubber bullet fired from a CRPF picket. Raising anti-government and pro-freedom slogans, nearly 4,000 protestors carried Bilal's body and marched on the streets of the town.
The funeral procession turned violent and five people were injured in CRPF firing. Soon, protesters marching near Sopore clashed with the police. As they headed towards a CRPF post, a jawan fired from the picket killing another 20-year-old, Tajamul.
Some time later on Monday came the incident that shook the Valley. A young boy, Tauqir Ahmad, was allegedly killed when CRPF personnel opened fire on a protest march at Dalina in Baramulla. (In Pics: Tension in Kashmir) The last two weeks have seen eight civilian deaths in the Valley.
The CRPF has, however, denied reports that it fired during the funeral procession. Vikram Srivastava, Director General, CRPF said, "No ammunition has been fired by CRPF at the funeral procession. Our basic position is that we are there to assist state police." (Watch: CRPF denies firing at protesters in Sopore)
Separatists had called for a protest march on Monday after the overnight tension in Sopore over the use of force by CRPF against agitators in the region. Hundreds of policemen were deployed and barricades erected on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway to prevent separatists from marching to Sopore.
Police forces also reportedly used teargas and lathicharge on protesters who refused to stop.
Several leaders of the moderate Hurriyat Conference, including its chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, were placed under house arrest. (Read: Hurriyat leaders placed under house arrest)
Read: Militants attack Sopore police station)
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah spoke with Home Minister P Chidambaram on Sunday night and voiced strong concern over civilians becoming victims of action by paramilitary forces. Asking him to intervene in the matter, Omar asked the Home Minister to visit the state. The visit is likely to take place in a day or two.
Chidambaram said the Union government is committed to supporting the state government in its endeavour to bring peace and order in the state and will do everything possible in this regard.
Home Ministry sources say it is not correct to blame the CRPF alone as it operates in aid of the state police. They further added that CRPF is not being handled properly by the state administration.
The Home Ministry believes that the CRPF might have taken action in self-defence when attacked by an unruly mob.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Law Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar said the firing was unwarranted and added to the already tense situation. "Firing like this was totally unwarranted. It added to the fuel. Whatever the CRPF has done is very unfortunate and gives out the wrong message," said Sagar.
Sopore remained tense over the weekend over recent civilian deaths. On June 25, two youths were killed and three others injured allegedly in firing by CRPF after the security personnel were attacked by protesters following an encounter in which two militants were gunned down.
The incident sparked protests across the Valley with both factions of Hurriyat calling for a shutdown.