Gunfire marked the eve of the day that marks one year of the abrogation of Article 370, and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir. A sarpanch (village head) was shot and critically injured even as security was tightened across the state. According to news reports the victim, identified as Arif Ahmad, was at his home in Akhran village of Kulgam district, when the attackers, allegedly militants, barged in and fired at him. The Indian Express reported that the assailants entered the village on Tuesday evening and opened fire from close range. “He has a bullet in the chest… His condition remains critical,” said Dr Mohammad Iqbal, Medical Superintendent of the Government Medical College in Anantnag where Ahmad has been admitted.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Altaf Thakur condemned the “barbaric attack” and told The Indian Express that Ahmad was associated with BJP. Since the panchayat elections in December 2018, two sarpanches have been killed in militant attacks in South Kashmir, another had been allegedly abducted by militants, her plea for mercy was filmed on video before she was let off .
Slain Kashmiri politician Sheikh Waseem Bari, had 10 cops, including eight security commandos guarding him. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Bandipore District President who was just 27-years-old, was shot and killed on July 8, allegedly in a terror attack, along with his father and brother, near the Bandipore Police Station.
In June Larkipora’s sarpanch Ajay Pandita Bharti, was shot dead, had not been given any security. He had constantly been asking for security, his request had fallen on the deaf ears of the Jammu and Kashmir administration and the Union Government which administers the Union Territory.
According to a report in the Indian Express on Wednesday, former J&K Chief Minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah has now called a meeting of mainstream political leaders at his residence today. However, many of those leaders are under house arrest, and much of the city has reported a curfew like situation even though officially it is said to have been lifted.
A report by Reuters confirmed that J&K police “have been told to ensure that no political leader be allowed to leave their homes, officials and politicians said, and residents out in Srinagar were turned back by police vans fitted with loud-speakers.”
India corralled politicians in their homes and bolstered security on the streets of Kashmir’s main city to prevent violent protests on the anniversary of the government’s revocation of the Himalayan region’s autonomy https://t.co/5ARH0Itf5Y pic.twitter.com/S27v0DPL4F
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 5, 2020
The IE also reported that in a separate attack, militants also lobbed a grenade on Special Operations Group (SOG) personnel in Wanpora village of Pulwama district. They quote police sources that said two policemen identified as Head Constable Khurshid Ahmad and Special Police Officer (SPO) Ishfaq Ahmad, were injured by splinters, they are reported to be stable now.
Officially the Union Territory’s (UT) administration has lifted the curfew that was imposed on Monday, however “restrictions on movement of more than three persons” will continue. The Covid-19 lockdown in containment zones also remains in place. The meeting proposed by Abdulah even if it does not actually happen was the first such attempt to unite an opposition group as it were of non BJP political leaders since the creation of the UT, and the revoking of Article 370 on August 5 2019. Most of them were placed under arrest, house detention along with scores of activists, lawyers, and journalists since that time.
On August 4 last year, a day before the Centre abrogated J&K’s special status and split the state into two Union territories, IE reports that many of these leaders had assembled at Abdullah’s residence and vowed to “stand united in their struggle for safeguarding identity, autonomy and special status of the state”.
Though no longer under detention, Farooq Abdullah told the IE that while he had “planned a meeting” on August 5 2020, security had been enhanced outside his house “they have already stationed (security) vehicles outside our houses, they have closed it (entry). Is this the government”. The news reports quoted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s Waheed Parra as confirming that a meeting had been planned. “Since Mehboobaji is under detention, we have asked Fayaz (Ahmad Mir) Sahib (Rajya Sabha member) to attend the meeting, but we are not sure if the meeting will be allowed by the government,” said Parra.
The IE also quotes Peoples Conference spokesperson, Adnan Ashraf, who said that party chief Sajad Lone had “already been told by the government that he can’t move out of his house till August 6.”
Meanwhile officials told the Hindustan Times that the security situation in Kashmir was better and terrorists were unable to carry out grenade attacks due to a robust presence and better coordination between security forces. The HT reported that “Only 21 grenade attacks have been reported so far this year as compared to 52 during the same period in 2019.”
The HT quoted government data, and reported that the number of violent incidents in Kashmir was down to 120 from January to July, compared to 198 during the same time last year. The officials have told the HT that “the security situation in the region has not only stabilized but also progressively improved with more support from the people, multiple army, police, and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).” They added that incidents of “stone-throwing incidents–102–have also significantly reduced this year”, but added that “heightened infiltration activity and the Pakistani army’s cease-fire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and targeting of civilians by terror groups remain areas of concern for security forces.”