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Bloodshed, Blindness and Controversies marks 2016 in Kashmir
Only Kashmir | Bilal Bashir Bhat | 01 Jan 2017
Undoubtedly the year 2016 will always be recalled for the most significant and historical years in Kashmir, which witnessed several happenings day in and day out right from the beginning. The civil uprising which erupted in aftermath of the killing of Burhan Wani and Mehbooba Mufti’s insertion as first lady Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, the killing of over 100 civilians and maiming of scores of people were among some top stories which also attracted many countries and international organization to speak out.
The political uncertainty, the funeral of civilians, the sobs of people, the cry of maimed, the meeting of separatist leaders, the roar of violent protestors, the desertedness of curfew, the visiting delegations, the non-stop controversies, the encounters and at the end of year the raining of gold medals turned out 2016 in Kashmir a remarkable year. The detailing of wide range of heart rendering stories is not possible in writing, as such I chose to brief most top stories of 2016, here I go:
1. Burhan Wani’s killing and Civil Uprising
The killing of Hizb militant commander Burhan Wani on 8th July 2016 turned whole Kashmir in the state of mourning and the reason of valley wide anti-India violent protests during which over 100 people fell to the bullets, injuries to over 15,000 protestors and loss of eyesight to almost 1200 youngsters after forces used lethal weapon Pellet gun to disperse the dissidents. The imposition of Curfew in all 10 districts and curbs on Mobile Internet and perhaps for the first time press emergency was witnessed in Kashmir. The uprising saw one of the longest strikes that world has ever witnessed.
2. Demise of CM Mufti Sayeed and crowning of Mehbooba Mufti as CM
On 07 January 2016 the then Chief Minister breathed his last at a local hospital in New Delhi thus trigging an unexpected political uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir. Following Sayeed’s death, the Governor’s Rule was imposed in the state as the PDP and the BJP did not stake fresh claim for government formation in the state. It took Mehbooba Mufti almost three months to revive PDP-BJP coalition government under which she took over as first lady Chief Minister of state at the age of 56 on 04, April 2016. Earlier, several PDP leaders went to extent of saying the prospects of an alliance with the BJP were all but over. However, to everyone’s surprise, the PDP president went to meet the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and decks were cleared for the formation of the government.
3. Handwara Incident
On 12th April, tension gripped the north Kashmir’s Handwara town after a girl alleged molestation by men in uniform, as such a fresh spell of protests erupted throughout the Valley in which five innocent youth lost precious lives apart from restrictions on mobile internet. One of the victims Nayeem Bhatt had participated in the India U19 cricket camp, and was the first player to be selected from the Kupwara region.
4. National Institute of Technology (NIT) row
Valley’s leading Engineering institute National Institute of Technology (NIT) Hazratbal Srinagar goes under the siege of non-local elements following clashes with Kashmiri students who had celebrated India’s defeat against the West Indies in the World T20 semifinal. Two companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and three companies of the Sashastra Seema Bal were deployed around the institute. The NIT row becomes the hotspot of the debate over nationalism in India where non-local students under tight security were later allowed to sing Indian national anthem.
5. Pellet Tyranny
At least 18 persons were killed by the forces who had pellet injuries, the number of injured during 2016 is over 16,000, more than 70 % injured were hit by the deadly pellets. Around 1200 persons have been pelted to blindness in one eye. More than 40 persons suffered pellet injuries in both eyes and lost eye sight. Hundreds received lifelong (crippled) injuries. The use of pellet fires was globally condemned. The Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the floor of parliament assured use of Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide (PAVA) an alternative to pellet guns. On 4 August, Amnesty International called for a ban on the use of the guns following the death of a third person due to injuries inflicted by them
6. Non Stop Encounters
As many as 158 Militants including Burhan Muzafar Wani were killed in different encounters in Kashmir during the year 2016. Scores of civilian also lost their lives after protests erupt during the funeral of these militants. Some 80 Armed Forces and Police Personnel were also killed in several militant attacks.
7. Strike Calendars
Weekly strike Calendars issued by pro-freedom leadership were treated as decrees and an obligation to follow during the uprising of long 5 months. During this year Kashmir witnessed around One hundred and sixty-seven (167) days of strikes and out of these 167 days, 12 days of strike were observed before the month of July.
A number of high-level Indian delegations visited Kashmir during the year 2016, including the parliamentarian delegation led by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, to which separatist leaders denied to meet.
The year 2016 in Kashmir can also be remembered as a controversial year, the government itself courted several controversies like Sanik Colonies, Industrial Policies, Pandit Colonies, National Food Security Act and at the end of the year SARFAESI Act, West Pakistan Refugees issue led a new era of protests in Kashmir. To fight ‘collectively’ against the government’s decision to built above said colonies and implement such acts resulted never expected unity among the top leaders in Pro-Freedom group.
“Lame horses and Blind People” statement by Hurriyat (M) leader Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and stopping the car of Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University by an incumbent Police officer also trigged hot debate on different social networking sites. PDP stalwart Tariq Karra after announcing his resignation became talk of the town on several occasions.
Panic and fear gripped the Kashmir Valley on 17 January after rumours spread that some children had died after being given polio drops.
10. Arrest Spree
Since July 8, Jammu and Kashmir witnessed one of the worst crackdowns in which more than 13,000 people were arrested, detained and jailed. Besides prominent Human Rights Defender Khuram Parvaiz, almost all the Hurriyat leadership was placed under arrest. Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq faced longest ever detention of 2 months outside his residence. According to a media report 582 persons were booked under Public Safety Act in 116 days in Kashmir.
11. Uri Attack and Surgical Strike
The militant attack on Indian Army brigade headquarters in Uri, near the Line of Control on 18th September 2016 and alleged surgical strike on 29th September against ‘militant launch pads’ across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir added fuel to the hostile relations between India and Pakistan and a war like situation was created by the mainstream media.
12. International Attention
Global organizations like United Nations, European Union, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch apart from countries like USA, Pakistan, UK, China, Turkey, Italy and others expressed concern over the Kashmir tense situation.
During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on 21 September, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif termed Burhan Wani as a “young leader” who had emerged as a symbol of the latest “Kashmiri Intifada” while calling for an independent inquiry into the alleged extrajudicial killings committed by Indian security forces in Kashmir.
13. Raining of Gold Medals
Amid mourning and suffering at the end of the year, all of the sudden Kashmiri talent got reorganization at international level several kids including Tajamul in World Kickboxing Championship, Hasim Mazoor in Asian Youth Karate Championship, Aksa Khan in Tong IL Moo Championship were felicitated with gold models. While as Nine Kashmiri students were awarded gold medals while three others received doctoral (Ph.D) degrees at the sixth convocation of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Hyderabad apart from Aadil Mohiuddin of Bandipora was given Sahitya Akademi’s 2016 Yuva Puruskar Award for his book ‘Zol Dith Sadras.’
Bilal Bashir Bhat is a Kashmir-based journalist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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