Srinagar Encounter Leaves Kashmiris Homeless In The Middle Of Coronavirus Pandemic

Shafaq Shah
Kashmiri men douse the fire in a house which was destroyed in a gun-battle in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. 

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir ― Switching on the flashlight of her mobile phone, Shakeela searched for her husband’s medical prescriptions in the charred remains of her house in Srinagar, Kashmir, on Tuesday night. 

The 50-year-old woman perused the rubble for about 30 minutes before she sat down on a pile of debris and said, “They have burned everything. Oh my god, what will I do now? Where would I go? My husband is unwell and my children are young. Where do I take them in this (coronavirus) pandemic?” 

Shakeela’s house was destroyed on the afternoon of 19 May in a gunfight between militants and Indian security forces in the densely populated neighbourhood of Nawakadal in Srinagar. 

Two militants were killed in the 12-hour long joint operation carried out by the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Three CRPF personnel and one policeman were injured, according to the J&K Police. This was the second operation to hunt for militants in Srinagar after the 2018 encounter in the Fateh Kadal locality that killed two Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, a policeman and a civilian. 

The militants in this encounter included Junaid Sehrai, a commander of the Pakistan-backed militant group Hizbul Mujahideen operating in Kashmir, and the son of Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, chairman of the separatist group Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. His death comes two weeks after the former Hizbul Mujahideen chief in Kashmir Riyaz Naikoo was shot dead by Indian army personnel in his village in Pulwama district on 6 May. 

On Tuesday, photos and videos of smoke and rubble posted on Twitter revealed the devastation wrought by the gunfight and subsequent shelling in downtown Srinagar, where houses stand cheek by jowl in narrow lanes. Houses were destroyed, rendering people homeless in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic which is raging in the conflict-ridden Kashmir, but has not led to a lull in the violence. 

It is unclear how many houses have been...

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