Fear Grips Sopore After 2nd Killing

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SOPORE:  Mobile phone services in Sopore town in Baramulla district Wednesday were adversely affected after some telecommunication companies suspended their operations as fear stricken employees stopped coming to work following killing of a second person associated with the trade in less than 24 hours.

Fear was palpable in the town known for bustling trade activity following series of attacks on telecommunication offices and towers.

Residents said that three private telecommunication companies completely suspended their operation and only Airtel and state-run BSNL were functioning. They, however, said that the internet connectivity of these two telecom companies was also affected in Sopore and its adjoining areas.

On Monday, unidentified gunmen walked into a BSNL franchise in Shah Faisal Market in the town and fired at three persons including two employees and its owner. Later, one of the injured employees succumbed to his injuries. A day later gunmen Tuesday night barged into the house of a landlord and shot him for housing the mobile telecommunication tower. The landlord died on the spot. Since the beginning of this month, the tensions between gunmen and telecom companies are running high after a ‘high tech’ communication device allegedly installed by the former on a mobile tower was removed by telecom employees.

Posters attributed to a hitherto unknown Lashkar-e-Islam outfit surfaced in the town and warned telecom operators to wind up their operations.

According to police sources there are 37 mobile towers that fall in the jurisdiction of Police Station Sopore.  Besides these 37 towers there are many more which are not functional. Aircel has maximum 12 towers followed by Airtel (11), Relaince (5), Vodafone (4), Tata Indicom and Idea 2 each and Government owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited has one tower that is located at Model Town-B, Sopore.

At Seelo Sopore there are four towers which reportedly have gone defunct in the town on Wednesday afternoon. Reports said that almost all the towers except the tower of BSNL have gone out of order while the signal of the Reliance towers is very weak. “I am on the roof top calling you from the Reliance network. The network is weak and it seems the network will not functioning after some time,” informed CNS reporter from Sopore town. 

A senior employee of Aircel told Srinagar based news agency GNS: “As of now we have been told to stop our operations. Some mobile tower sites were closed but then army intervened and told us to resume operations. At some places, landlords shut the towers but then technical staff resumed the services themselves. The operations at Dooru, Shuwa and Dangerpora are completely down. But at Main Chowk, the tower is functioning,” adding: “the landlords have been given authority to down the operations themselves.”

He said some 19 mobile tower sites are dependent on diesel but now they won’t be functional as no one is ready to go and supply the diesel. The sites include at Badambagh and Hygam, he said.

Even though the United Jihad Council – an amalgam of militant outfits operating in Kashmir – has disowned the Lashkar-e-Islam and outrightly condemned the attacks but police so far have failed to achieve any breakthrough.  

“We have not arrested anyone so far vis-à-vis killings but we do have picked up several persons for questioning,” said the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sopore, Abdul Qayoom.

The telecom showrooms, franchises, retailers are closed across Sopore as well as in Baramulla town and there are recharge crisis. The sign boards on telecom outlets have been removed and at several places ‘showroom is closed’ sign has been pasted on shutters.

“Around 10 to 15 lakh rupees are out in the market in Sopore and adjoining areas. We will wind up our business but what about all this money,” said an Aircel employee, adding that there are around 150 employees working with all telecommunication companies in Sopore alone.

Meanwhile, the army and Special Operation Group (SOG) of police conducted search operation in and around mobile telecommunication sites in Sopore and Baramulla, official sources said this evening. 

Son accuses police of negligence

SOPORE: Accusing police of negligence, the son of the deceased landlord from Sopore town Wednesday said that despite repeated requests, police neither took their complaint seriously nor deputed a party for patrolling in Dooru area.

Pertinently, unknown gunmen shot dead a landlord Ghulam Hasan Dar in whose compound BSNL had installed its tower in Dooru hamlet of Sopore town on Tuesday night.

Tanvir Ahmed Dar, the son of the deceased who is also a Sarpanch said that on May 21, two gunmen barged into their house in broad day light. “We have installed a mobile tower in our yard and the gunmen directed us to force the telecom company to make this tower non-operational. These gunmen also snatched the identity card of my brother and immediately after they left, we approached police station and informed all the senior police officers but they did not take our complaint seriously,” Dar said.

Accusing police of negligence, Dar said that when he approached police station with a complaint the policemen present in the station refused to entertain his complaint. “There are number of landlords in Sopore whose land is being used by cellular companies for tower purposes, when they don’t complain, why you are complaining and militants are only threatening you,” quoting policemen Dar said.

“I appealed police officers to provide security and even I requested them to depute a patrolling party in Dooru village but nobody obliged. The carelessness of police resulted in the death of my father,” he said.

Responding to a question, Tanvir Ahmed Dar said that two gunmen barged into our house on Tuesday night. “They called my father and asked him why he didn’t make the mobile tower defunct. As my father tried to inform them that he has already asked the mobile company to do so, the gunmen pumped at least seven bullets into his body,” he said.

Reacting over the killing of his father by the unknown gunmen, Tanvir Ahmed Dar said he fails to understand what killers want to prove. “Why they want to close the mobile towers in Sopore only. Towers are everywhere in Jammu and Kashmir. Do they want to make Sopore as Pakistan by making all the towers non-operational?  Is this what our Holy Quarn says to kill an innocent person for none of his fault,” he said. 

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