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Flashback 2016: How the Kashmir unrest unfolded

By Vikas

The Kashmir Valley, where the situation has been relatively normal since 2010, saw violent protests this year, following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by the security forces in July .

Such was the situation that valley remained under 53 days of consecutive curfew, with the government having to rush in additional forces to contain the agitation. The unrest, which went on for months, resulted in the deaths of more than 85 civilians and left over 13,000 injured.

Who was Burhan Wani?

Son of a principal of a higher-secondary school in Pulwama, Burhan Wani was popular among sections of Kashmiris for his anti-India posts on the social media. He fled home at the age of 15 to become a millitant after an alleged bitter experience with the security forces. The killing of his brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani, who was a militant sympathiser, by the security forces further motivated Burhan to join the millitancy.

By the age of 21, Burhan had already become a popular face of the Hizbul Mujahideen with his Facebook posts gathering significant support. Such was his appeal to the youth that he is said to have recruited around 30 boys from South Kashmir for Hizbul, to mark the resurgence of Kashmir based millitancy.

Although no attack has ever been traced back to him, he is believed to have masterminded several of them.

A bounty of Rs 10 lakh was announced for finding Burhan.

Consequently, on July 8, 2016, a joint team of the special operations group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and Rashtriya Rifles killed Burhan, along with his two associates, in the Kokernag area following a tip-off.

Burhan Wani's funeral and the following protests:

The news of Wani's death triggered protests across the Valley. Thousands from different parts of the valley gathered to mourn his death at his funeral. Because of his online popularity, his death fueled the anger among Kashmiri youth . Seperatists took the opportunity to fuel passions and called for a three-day shutdown in Kashmir to protest against the killing.

Violent clashes broke out in response to the killing on 9 July in some areas and stone pelting was also reported from many parts of Kashmir. In the following days, several police stations and security establishments were attacked and soon the Centre had to rush in thousands of paramillitary forces to contain the situation.

By July 10, more than 20 were confirmed to have died during the unrest and around 300 CRPF personnel were reported to have been injured.

With the situation spiralling out of control, the government imposed curfew in all districts of Kashmir on July 15 and all mobile phone networks were suspended.

Kashmiri youths pelting stones

Kashmiri youths pelting stones

Kashmiri youths pelting stones at Security forces at Khadwani Quimoh in South Kashmir's Kulgam district.

Police arrest protestors who defied curfew

Police arrest protestors who defied curfew

Police arrests Shai mourners after they defy curfew and taken out a Muharram procession on the 94th day of Kashmir Unrest.

Mob hurling stones at forces

Mob hurling stones at forces

Stone pelters hurling stones at the security forces. The government imposed curfew in all districts of Kashmir on July 15

Security forces firing tear gas shells

Security forces firing tear gas shells

Security forces firing tear gas shells to contain mob in Kashmir. The protests were sparked by Wani's killing.

Security forces using slingshots

Security forces using slingshots

Security forces use slingshots to control angry protesters pelting stones on them during a protest in downtown Srinagar.

Srinagar after curfew was lifted

Srinagar after curfew was lifted

A scene of normality after 133 days of shutdown in Srinagar. Shops, offices, business establishments and fuel stations opened this morning for a full day for the first time since the unrest began on July 8.

The following months:

By the end of July, seeing the situation improve, the government lifted the curfew from Ganderbal, Budgam, Bandipora, Barmulla districts and parts of Srinagar city, with Section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure still remaining in force in the areas.

In August, the unrest took a violent turn again with protestors attacking state Education Minister Naeem Akhtar's residence with petrol bombs. Incidents of protestors trying to storm into army camps also came to light, but were foiled.

Train services and the pilgrimage to the Amarnath Temple were suspended. All state board exams scheduled for 9 July were postponed, and all vehicular traffic was suspended on the Srinagar Jammu National Highway.

The curfew returned to most parts of Kashmir by August 13 in view of the protests called by separatists.

Reports of Pakistan flags being raised and pro-Paksitan slogans being raised around August 14 also made headlines during this period.

In the meantime, the separatists issued a protest schedule, popularly called as the Hurriyat Calender', which gives out the details of areas, dates and means of protest in the valley. A typical calender would include instructions like - lockdown all the routes entering your mohallas, villages and localities by every means, all vehicles should hoist black flags as a mark of protest, protest with glags, placards and banners withfreedom messages and slogans, deliberate and discuss ways and means to strengthen the ongoing people's uprising for freedom from Indian occupation and other such inflammatory instructions.

Use of pellet guns:

In a bid to suppress the agitators and contain the mobs, security forces used a non-lethal weapon called 'pellet guns', which are loaded with small metal balls which disperse in huge numbers and do not follow a definite path.

When fired, these pellets travel at high velocity and are capable of damaging skin tissues. Eyes are the most vulnerable to get damaged.

There is no official figure available about the number of people who lost their eyesight or were maimed for life because of these injuries, but reports suggest that over 100 surgeries related to pellet wounds were performed at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in Srinagar.

The government faced severe criticism for using these weapons and several political parties asked for its complete withdrawal.

Political reactions:

The Congress launched a scathing attack on the ruling BJP government, saying the latter does not have any policy on Kashmir.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley turned the table on the Congress and the National Conference. He said lack of development during Congress and NC regimes led to the unrest.

The opposition welcomed Rajnath Singh's visit to the Valley in August, but took a dig by saying that the Home minister should have done it long back.

The parties, however, remained unanimous in blaming Pakistan for the situation in Kashmir.

International reactions:

On 12 July, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the killing of Wani and criticised the Indian governemnt for it. Sharif expressed shock over the action of Indian security forces and described Wani as a "Martyr". Pakistan also raised the matter in the United Nations and described Wani's killing as "assassination of a Kashmiri youth leader".

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation seemed to be backing Paksitan by blaming the Indian Army and para-military forces for human rights violations. OIC said Kashmir unrest was not just an internal matter of India.

China expressed concern over the issue and called for settlement Kashmir issue by peaceful means.

The European Union expressed its condolences over loss of lives in Kashmir and urged India and Pakistan to involve people of Kashmir in the dialogue process.

Even the United States expressed concern over the violence in Kashmir. State Department spokesman John Kirby said all efforts must be made to find a peaceful solution.

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