Arwani encounter: People tried to free trapped militants and were ready to die doing so
Though protests following the killings of the militants have now been a longstanding worry with the security agencies, the pre-encounter mobilizations geared to free the trapped militants have been a further source of the trouble
On Wednesday evening, when security forces cordoned off a house in village Arwani in South Kashmir, where militants were alleged to be holed up, the residents quickly assembled and marched towards the site to rescue them. Soon they were joined by the people from the adjacent villages, leaving security forces caught between fighting militants and fending off the protests.
For the entire Thursday, the forces fought off both the militants and the protesters. They fired tear gas shells followed by pellet pump action guns and the aerial firing at the protesters and when this failed to break up the protest, they resorted to direct firing killing a youth Arif Ahmad Shah of the nearby village Gund Baba and injuring around thirty others, one of them hit by pellets in the eye and another in the head.
The encounter ended on Friday morning after the forces blasted off five houses. From one house, charred remains of two bodies, suspected to be those of militants were recovered. Search is going on to find other bodies.
Several militants, including the Valley's Lashker chief Abu Dujana and the district commander Kulgam Majid Zargar, were suspected to have been holed up inside one of the burnt houses. The bodies have been sent for forensic examination. Besides, two rfiles are also said to have been recovered. Some militants are believed to have escaped from the encounter site.
Incidentally, the militants were holed up inside the house of one Mushtaq Ahmad Ganai whose son Jahangir Ahmad Ganai was killed during the protests in summer.
However, the ending of the encounter has, in no way, quelled the protests which have only spread further. People from Kulgam, Qaimoh, Khudwani, Redwani as well as from Sangam and other areas have started marching towards the encounter site in protest.
Though protests following the killings of the militants have now been a longstanding worry with the security agencies, the pre-encounter mobilizations geared to free the trapped militants have been a further source of the trouble. After all, the current turmoil in Kashmir which led to the killings of 97 people and the blindings of several hundred more is the fallout of the killing of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
"Yes, this is a worrying development. You can't be fighting militants on one hand and quelling protests on the other. It is a tough situation," said a police officer. "Besides, it shows the public support that militants draw on to carry on their activity has not waned. This means militants can count on to get fresh recruits".