During the militancy years in Kashmir starting from 1990, the apple town of Sopore witnessed a lot of gun battles, killings, arson and mayhem. In Jan 1992, dozens of civilians were killed in the town, many of them charred inside their shops, when Border Security Force cordoned off the town and indiscriminately fired at civilians killing dozens in the process. They also sprayed shops with gun powder and put them to fire. Since it was during daytime, many shopkeepers remained trapped inside their shops and lost their life. That was one of the most frightening acts of violence that the valley witnessed. The town suffered immensely during the peak years of militancy. Businesses were hit, properties gutted and lives lost. In the last few years, the town was enjoying relative peace and businesses had begun to pick up.
After the cycle of killings that has engulfed the town this year, it seems the spectre of fear has returned to haunt the town folk. In the last one month or so, about seven civilians have been killed. These killings did not result from any encounter between the security forces and the militants. But it seems there is a nefarious plot to frighten the population of the town and also create fear among the people in the whole valley of Kashmir. This started with the killing of s young man, who was working in a BSNL franchise. Following that killing, Telecom operators began to stop their services in the town fearing more attacks on their workers and the infrastructure. But their operations resumed within a few days, so did the killings. In the days following the first killing, another six civilians and an under-trial have been killed in the town. With each killing the mystery deepens and more and more fear is spreading in the town. To protest these killings, the town remained shut last week for a few days, but even till now, the police has made no breakthrough in catching the culprits behind these killings. Apart from a few statements by the police, in which they claimed they were close to a break through, nothing tangible has been reported so far. Even the Govt has not shown any urgency to nip this menace in the bud. Last week, the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Syed, said that the Govt will probe the killings. That just seems a rehashed statement from which no one in Sopore or the valley will take any hope.
The town has been wearing a ghost look all these days, with people finding their personal security at risk. Most people dont venture out in the evening or early morning. Given this is the month of Ramzan, when Muslims engage in more worship, such threat to life is discouraging people in the town to venture out and go to their mosques. Given the fragility of the situation and how fear has again crept because of this spate of killings, it becomes incumbent upon the State Govt to reassure that safety of security of people in the valley will not be compromised. For common people to be reassured, the Govt needs to soon arrest the culprits and come out with a detailed statement about the prevailing situation in the town.
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