Srinagar: Three weeks after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing in a dubious encounter in south Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday said she was unaware that it was Burhan Wani who was inside the house that the government forces were targeting for the kill. Had she known it was Burhan Wani there, Mehbooba said, the killing could have been prevented.
As the home minister of the state and the chairperson of unified headquarters, Mehbooba Mufti is in full knowledge of anti-insurgency operations. However, in Burhan’s case, she claimed she knew about the operation but not the identity of the trapped militants.
Burhan Wani and his two associates were killed at Bamdoora village in Kokernag area on July 8. Burhan’s killing has caused a historic anti-India uprising in the region. Tens of thousands of people have held protest demonstrations throughout the valley. Observers say that the massive public reaction to Burhan’s killing has compelled the chief minister to distance herself from it.
What SM Sahai said
On July 9, when the government forces unleashed a reign of terror in Kashmir Valley to squash the massive public uprising following Burhan Wani’s killing, state intelligence chief of J&K Police Shiv Murari Sahai at a press conferece at police control room said that Mehbooba Mufti was aware of the encounter. “The chief minister being the home minister is informed of all the activities,” Sahai said.
Sahai also said that Burhan was killed in encounter as he refused to give in when offered a chance. “Two of our men received bullet wounds in the encounter,” he said to explain that the encounter did take place at Kokernag. “If the militants can be arrested, they should be arrested,” he said. Sahai was confronted by reporters as to why the encounter at Kokernag was not prolonged when the house was zeroed in and the militants were spotted.
“How can one know everything about every encounter?” Mehbooba told reporters at the Peoples Democratic Party headquarters on the sidelines of a function to commemorate the party’s 17th rising day on Thursday.
“As far as I know, what I heard from the police and the army, that they only knew of there being three militants inside the house but did not know who they were,” she said.
She said if the government forces had known about Wani’s presence inside the house, it would have been possible to keep the situation “from turning to what it is today.”
“I feel if they knew, perhaps we would not have such a situation when the overall situation in the state was improving, so it could have been a chance,” she said.
She referred to police and intelligence agencies’ reports saying they were unaware of the identity of the trapped militants.
Mehbooba also attempted to bail out herself and her government on the situation that emerged after Burhan Wani’s killing. She compared it with the situation in the aftermath of Afzal Guru’s hanging on April 9, 2013. She said unlike in 2013, the present government did not get enough time to make arrangements.
“When Afzal Guru was hanged, Omar (Abdullah) knew, so he made all the arrangements before-hand. We knew nothing and we came to know suddenly. But, despite that, we tried to impose curfew so that children do not come out,” she said.
Earlier, in her speech to a handful of party workers and leaders who had gathered at the Residency Road headquarters of the ruling party, Mehbooba called for finding lasting solutions to the problems confronting the state. She denounced the “senseless violence perpetuated on the streets in Kashmir” which she said results in colossal human and economic loss for the Kashmiris.
“Let us rise as one to meet the challenges confronting Jammu and Kashmir and make this a turning point in the state’s turbulent history so that our future generations do not have to suffer the miseries of violence and bloodshed,” Mehbooba said.
Mehbooba said that people have to ponder why such horrible situations always crop up in Kashmir when economic activity starts picking up. “There seems to be a larger design behind such orchestrated eruptions to push Kashmiris into perpetual economic deprivation and social disorder,” she said. She said it has been observed time and again that such hideous situations have only hurt the interests of Kashmiris the most. “We have to think of how long it is going to be like this for the hapless people here,” she said.
She called upon the country’s political leadership, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to make renewed effort towards resolution of J&K’s problems by engaging all the stakeholders. “I am sure the country’s political leadership will pick up the threads and carry forward the reconciliation and resolution process started by Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2003,” she said.
The opposition National Conference (NC) reacted to Mehbooba Mufti’s statement by calling it her “theatrical tendency to lie”. The NC claimed that reward money of several lakhs of rupees has already been disbursed from the chief minister’s secret fund to the troops who killed Wani and his associates on July 8.
“It is ironic and ridiculous that the chief minister is terming Burhan Wani’s killing a coincidence while simultaneously having released lakhs of rupees as reward money from the CM’s secret fund for those who took part in the encounter,” NC’s provincial president and former junior home minister Nasir Aslam Wani said in a statement. He accused the CM of deflecting responsibility and spreading canards.
Wani also condemned the insensitive and inappropriate statement from the CRPF Director-General that supported the continued use of pellet guns despite their disastrous implications that have resulted in the blinding and maiming of hundreds of young boys and girls in the Valley and termed the state government’s conspicuous silence on this development as shameless.