49 Deaths Later, Omar Reaches Out5 August 2010
The Indian Express
Srinagar: After 55 days of street protests and police action which left 49 dead and more than a thousand injured, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah finally reached out to the people, visiting the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Srinagar today to check on the injured and face, for the first time, public anger. Abdullah didn’t, however, risk driving to the hospital and flew there in a helicopter instead. The government kept the visit under wraps to avoid trouble. Srinagar city was relatively quiet today, a day after separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani urged people not to indulge in stone-throwing or acts of arson. Geelani’s call had ensured that even the funeral of a protester in the volatile Chanapora-Natipora neighbourhood Thursday passed off peacefully despite the presence of a massive crowd. The Geelani appeal opened a little window for the government but it seemed slow in seizing this opportunity. In Pulwama, where protesters were addressed today by Geelani via telephone, police and CRPF personnel opened fire, killing 23-year-old Shabir Ahmad Malik and leaving six others injured. The firing took place after people refused to stop marching towards Zadoora village where Mohammad Yaqoob Bhat had been killed in firing last Sunday. In Srinagar, scrap dealer Ghulam Nabi Badyari (48), critically injured in police firing late last night in the Ganpatyar locality, succumbed to injuries this morning. This afternoon, Omar Abdullah flew to SKIMS to visit the ICU where several critically injured are being treated. “Since no one is allowed inside the ICU, we sit in the corridor outside. In the afternoon, we were told to move away from the ICU ward. They told us that the Director (of SKIMS) was going to visit the ward,” said Firdous Ahmad, an attendant. “But suddenly somebody said Omar Abdullah was here. People immediately assembled outside the ward and started shouting slogans.” Abdullah, who was accompanied by Minister of State for Health Javed Ahmad Dar, Director SKIMS Dr Abdul Hameed Zargar and senior officials, also took stock of the availability of medicines and life-saving drugs. SKIMS Medical Superintendent Dr Amin Tabish told The Indian Express that one hundred injured had been admitted to the hospital. Of these, 65 had been operated upon. When Abdullah stepped out of the ward, he was heckled by women who blamed him for their plight. Eyewitnesses said that when the attendants confronted him in the corridor, police officers pushed them aside but Abdullah asked them to let the families talk to him. Despite being shouted at, he didn’t utter a word in response. “I told him you are responsible for all this. You have given orders to kill our children. I told him there is blood on your hands. I asked him why was he here to rub salt on our wounds,” said Zahida Nabi whose son Fida Nabi, injured in police firing in the HMT neighbourhood, is battling for life. “I told him you have permitted them (police) to open fire on our children... I said if you are CM, why don’t you take the side of the people? Why are you silent?” she said.