Srinagar: The body of a 22-year old tourist from Chennai killed by stone pelters here was flown home on Tuesday as Kashmiris cutting across the political spectrum continued to condemn the cowardly act. The grieving parents and sister of the slain R. Thirumani, whose vehicle was among many attacked on the Srinagar-Gulmarg road on Monday, accompanied the body on an Indigo flight, an official of the tourism department told IANS.
Thirumani was hit on the forehead and nose when the stone pelters targeted several vehicles with rocks during protests called against the Sunday killings of five militants and six civilians in Shopian district. On Tuesday, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti reiterated her condemnation of the tourist’s killing. “I have no words strong enough to condemn this tragic incident or even condole with the family,” she said in a statement.
She described the incident as a blot on the cultural value system of Kashmir and an attempt to bulldoze its economy. The Chief Minister, who went to meet the tourist’s family at the hospital immediately after the killing, had said on Monday: “My head hangs in shame.” Her predecessor and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said: “We have killed a tourist by throwing stones at the vehicle he was travelling in. Let’s try and wrap our heads around the fact that we stoned a tourist, a guest, to death while we glorify these stone pelters and their methods.”
Senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said: “Deeply saddened by the news of the death of a tourist due to stone pelting. I condemn such hooliganism and rowdiness. “It is totally against our ethos of treating tourists as respected guests and brings a bad name to the people’s movement.”
The common man in the valley is no less shocked. Those who earn from tourism are particularly shocked. “What have we proved by doing this? We claim to be the most hospitable society and here we have a guest killed in stone pelting,” said Zahoor Ahmad, 33, a taxi operator. “What crime had the tourist committed? His only crime was that he trusted his life with us,” Ahmad added.
“What message are we sending out? Those who targeted the tourists cannot be fighting for the rights of Kashmiris. The incident has deeply shocked us all,” said Nazir Ahmad, a hotel owner in north Kashmir’s Sonamarg tourist resort.
“How can anyone claim to be fighting for human rights by violating the rights of others? The guilty need to be exposed,” said Bashir Ahmad, a university employee here. Some locals who too condemned the attack added that all innocent killings, including those of Kashmiris, also needed to be denounced.
“Nobody will support an attack on an innocent tourist. At the same time, there must be unequivocal condemnation of killings of innocent Kashmiris as well”, said Mehrajuddin, a fruit seller in Srinagar. Stone pelting has become a part of street protests in the Kashmir Valley, particularly in Srinagar, the urban hub of a separatist movement that has claimed thousands of lives since 1989.
As security personnel advance to disperse mobs, bands of young men attack them with stones and then disappear into narrow lanes. Last week, a school bus came under attack in Shopian, badly injuring a young boy.