JK News Today
Srinagar, December 30
The 2016 was one of the roller-coaster year in which event unfolded swiftly and surprisingly, and dramatically changed the course of Jammu and Kashmir’s timeline.
The scenes that define the 2016 changed from month to month till the year reached it conclusion.
From the sombre funeral of state’s Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, to the revolting and unprecedented funeral of militant commander Burhan Wani, from the shutting down of National Institute of Technology’s Srinagar campus over flag controversy to burning down of schools by unidentified arsonists, it was the year of Kashmir’s tryst with loss and pain, with death and destruction, with tears and blood.
The moments that defined Kashmir of 2016
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed: The founder of Peoples Democratic Party and the state’s Chief Minister died on January 7. His death was a setback to the PDP-BJP alliance and the low attendance at his funeral highlighted a significant loss of support.
Sayeed, a career politician and formed Union Home Minister who founded healing touch policy to win hearts of war-weary people of the state and was an ardent supporter of friendly Indo-Pak ties, died at hospital in New Delhi. He was 79 and was survived by wife, a son and two daughters.
Sayeed was the architect of surprising and unlikely alliance with BJP, even as the two parties had vociferously campaigned against each other during the election. The alliance was seen as a significant setback to Sayeed’s and his party’s popularity in the region.
EDI and highway attacks: The Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) became the venue of extraordinarily long sieges on two occasions in a year – first in February and then in October.
In February, the militant fidayeen squads barricaded themselves inside one of the multi-storey buildings of the EDI and took vantage positions inside. During the subsequent gunfight that continued for three days, security forces suffered heavy casualties. Three Special Forces personnel including two captains were killed while battling the militants.
In October, the security forces changed tactics and avoided the risky room-to-room intervention. Instead, the security forces decided to bombard the EDI building where militants had taken shelter.
The militants also carried out several attacks along the Srinagar-Jammu highway and caused heavy damage to the security forces by ambushing their convoys. It made the highway one of the most vulnerable stretches for the security forces.
Long wait and JK’s first woman CM: Mehbooba Mufti, the president of Peoples Democratic Party, kept everyone guessing about it for a long time. Following the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, it was upon Mehbooba to take decision on the fate of the alliance with the BJP and formation of a government in the state. On April 4, she took oath as the state’s first woman Chief Minister.
NIT Srinagar controversy: On March 31, India lost the T20 semi-final match to West Indies at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Its most tumultuous impact was felt, however, here in Srinagar. As local Kashmiri students celebrated the victory of West Indies, it led to clashes with the non-local students. The protest followed next day as non-local students boycotted classes and staged demonstrations.
The controversy stormed the Srinagar campus of the premier engineering institute when non-local students attempted to march outside the campus with a tricolor and were stopped by police, who cane-charged the students. The images were aired on TV news and caused outrage across the country.
The incident became the first litmus test of the then recently formed government of Mehbooba Mufti.
Handwara protests: Within days of Mehbooba Mufti becoming the state’s first woman Chief Minister, the town of Handwara in north Kashmir became the site of violent protests. The trigger: allegations that a teenage girl was molested by a soldier. The incident happened on April 12 and two demonstrators were shot dead by the security forces during the protests.
In the days following the incident, protests erupted across the north Kashmir district of Kupwara, where Handwara is located, as the death toll reached five.
Mehbooba wins Anantnag: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti triumphed in the bye-poll in Anantnag assembly segment on June 25, defeating her closest rival –Hilal Shah of Congress party by 6000 votes.
Burhan Wani is killed: It was the event which changed the year’s trajectory. On July 8, security forces killed Burhan Wani, a wanted 21-year-old militant commander. Wani was killed in Bamdoora village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
The killing sparked immediate protests. His funeral held on July 9 was one of the biggest in decades. Nearly two lakh people attended Wani’s funeral as roads leading to his native Tral town in south Kashmir were flooded with mourners.
In the next two days following Wani’s killing, at least 26 civilians had died as security forces attempted to quell one of the most widespread spell of protests.
Mobile, Internet shutdown: The state government moved quickly in the aftermath of Wani’s killing and decided to shut down mobile phone and internet services. The shutdown was initially limited to the districts of south Kashmir, but the services were shut across Kashmir valley as the protests spread. The shutdown of mobile phone and internet services following Wani’s killing was one of the longest spell of communication blackout in recent years.
Uri attack and surgical strikes: A fidayeen squad of militants, suspected to be linked to Jaish-e-Mohammad, assaulted an army base in Uri sector, close to the Line of Control in north Kashmir, on September 18. Nineteen soldiers were killed in the attack that was the highest casualty suffered by the Army in a single attack in Kashmir in the past over two decades. The four fidayeen militants involved in the attack were killed.
The attack left a devastating impact on the fragile relations between India and Pakistan as New Delhi responded by launching “surgical strikes” on militant launch pads across the Line of Control. The two incidents caused a chain reaction along the Line of Control and International Border and threatened to rip apart the historic 2003 ceasefire as the two armies set their guns blazing against each other.
Stone pelting, marches, and demonstrations: It was a summer of protests – stone pelting, marches and demonstrations – in Kashmir.
In a week following Wani’s killing, 200 incidents of stone-throwing and protests took place per day and police records estimate that 40,000 people were involved in stone-throwing.
The incidents of stone pelting and protests were registered in all ten districts of Kashmir valley.
Pellets and Kashmir’s blinded youth: In the protests that followed Wani’s killing, the security forces came under increasing pressure to stop the use of pellet guns as nearly 1100 people, most of the teenagers, were hit in the eyes and partially or fully blinded .
The use of pellet guns against protesters became the cause of a major controversy and caused widespread outrage.
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