5 civilians dead in army firing in 6 days, protests spreading from Handwara to Ganderbal and many other areas of the Kashmir valley, the situation is extremely tense as locals continue their protests against the authorities including the state govt headed by newly installed Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Now since the situation is still extremely tense and there are contradicting versions of what really started the fire in the first place, I am going to go out on a limb here and say this at the outset, there are multiple inquiries that have been ordered in the case, not just into the firings that killed 5 civilians but also the alleged instance of an army jawan accused of molestation by locals.
It is pertinent to note here that the alleged victim gave a statement to the police day before yesterday which did not mention any army jawans being present at the spot. That has led many people to believe that there is a conspiracy afoot to malign the security forces in Kashmir. There was however a fresh twist today as the mother of this 16-year-old schoolgirl came out and contradicted her daughter’s statement given to the police saying that she was coerced into giving a coached statement. Also alleging that her daughter along with her father was being held in custody illegally by the police, she has now gone to the High Court demanding that they be released.
That’s not all; the debate tonight has two main hinge points. First, the alleged rumour that started the vicious cycle of protests and the handling of these protests. And two, the response of the army and police to these protestors. Mehbooba mufti today met the aggrieved kin of the deceased civilians and assured them of speedy justice in the case. So the question is, was there a concerted attempt at tarnishing the image of the army in Kashmir by certain elements to take advantage of the already tenuous relationship between the security forces and civilians? Another question – an important one – is whether the response of the security establishment to protestors being fuelled by call it rumour or rumour mongering has escalated the tension and exposed fault lines in the valley yet again? A no holds barred debate follows.