Stuck between Summers

Eight months after an uprising of stone-pelters, little has been done to improve conditions in Kashmir—and another violent summer looms

01 March 2011
People in a village 100 kilometres north of Srinagar pray by the body of Manzoor Ahmed Magray, 21, killed in army custody in the first week of this February.

ON THE NIGHT OF 4 FEBRUARY 2011, one day after the Indian Army reached an agreement with the Jammu and Kashmir state government to modify the army’s standard operating procedure to avoid further killing of innocent civilians, Manzoor Ahmed Magray, a 21-year-old from North Kashmir’s Handwara district, walked out of his house to meet his girlfriend. Soon after he stepped on a bridge that led to the village of his sweetheart, a flash grenade exploded just a few steps away from him. The loud thud froze him in his tracks. Then a bullet ripped through his right foot. He fell, and died.

The bullet was fired by an Indian Army unit hiding behind some nearby trees. VK Singh, the army chief of staff, said that he regretted Magray’s death. But he still defended his own men: “The boy was fired at because he didn’t stop when he was told to,” Singh said in a TV interview.

Four days prior to Magray’s killing, some unidentified gunmen barged into the house of two sisters, Arifa, 18, and Akhtara, 16, from the northern Kashmir town of Sopore. The gunmen were wearing masks. They dragged out both women sisters and shot them dead. Police blamed Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)—a Pakistan-based militant outfit—for the killing. A few hours later, the United Jihad Council (UJC), a coalition of militant groups that includes LeT, denied the police claim. But the following day, LeT posters were seen all over Sopore claiming responsibility for the killings, and explaining that the girls had been killed because they were ‘immoral’; shortly thereafter, the LeT denied having put up the posters, and again denied involvement in the murders. Who killed the two sisters? The government believes that the militants were responsible—and the police have therefore closed the case without any further investigation.

Mehboob Jeelani  is a former staff writer at The Caravan. He is currently studying for an MA in journalism at Columbia University.

Keywords: Kashmir Indian Army stone-pelting separatist