Post tourist death, condemnation of stone-pelters pours in from across Valley

When the four members of a family from Chennai embarked on a journey to explore “paradise on earth”, they could never have imagined it would turn into hell for them the way it did on Sunday. After spending a day in Srinagar, the family was heading towards the tourist resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir, when their convoy came under attack from stone-pelters at Narbal crossing on the Srinagar-Gulmarg Road, on the outskirts of Srinagar.

“They came under attack at 8 am on Sunday while the family was heading towards Gulmarg. The injured was rushed to Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Srinagar where he succumbed to his injuries at around 8 pm,” Deputy Inspector-General of Central Kashmir Range, VK Birdi, told Firstpost on Tuesday. R Thirumani, 21 — son of Rajwali, a resident of Chennai — was sitting in the back of a Chevrolet Tavera along with his father, mother and sister. When they reached Narbal crossing, a group of stone-pelters attacked the cars.

“Stones hit his forehead and nose. He was critical for some time before he succumbed to his injuries,” Birdi said, adding that Sabreena, a 19-year old of resident of Handwara was also injured and has been hospitalised. This is the first incident of a tourist dying due to stone-pelting in the Valley. When 60 locals were killed in the 2008 unrest in the Valley, not a single tourist was harmed. The incident has shocked the entire Kashmir Valley. The pictures of the grieving father of Thirumani went viral on social networking sites on Monday evening.

“He was very happy and clicking pictures with his cell phone. We just did not understand what happened. The stones were thrown at us from the left and they broke the window panes. The driver drove quickly to avoid any more attacks, and a few hundred metres later, my son called out to me, saying, ‘Appa, I can’t feel my head’,” Rajwali said. The family was on its first trip to Kashmir and the incident took place on a day when separatist groups had called for a two-day strike to protest the killing of five stone-throwing protesters and five militants in the Shopian area of South Kashmir. The police added that one of its own vehicles had also come under attack a few minutes before the civilians cars were attacked by stone-pelters.

Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq condemned the incident, tweeting:

In recent years, the Narabal crossing in the Magam area on the Srinagar-Gulmarg Road has become notorious for stone-pelting incidents. The local boys often descend on the road, during strikes and protests, and attack vehicles with stones. The car of slain R Thirumani, was third in the convoy, when the stone-pelters set upon them. The injured were rushed to SKIMS Hospital in Srinagar. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, conscious of the political fallout of the incident, waited for some time at the police control room in Srinagar on Monday evening, along with her sister Rubiya Sayeed, who is also a resident of Chennai, to meet the father of the slain youth.

“I can’t tell you how ashamed I am about the behavior of these people. I will make sure those responsible for the killing of your son are punished. I am sorry for your loss,” Mehbooba told Rajwali inside the police control room, according to an official present in the meeting. A police statement said that during clashes at Magam, “some persons including bystanders sustained injuries. In this incident, a person identified as R Thirumani, son of Rajwali , a resident of Chennai also got injured and was shifted to a hospital at SKIMS for medical treatment who later succumbed at the hospital. Police has registered a case in this regard and investigations taken up”. Condemnation is pouring from across the Valley over the killing. Mehbooba tweeted on Tuesday morning:

 Opposition leader Omar Abdullah, who is on a week-long visit to Ladakh, tweeted: