As has been the norm for more than two decades now, people seldom venture outdoors in large parts of the Kashmir Valley after sundown. But in the past three weeks, the streets of Sopore present a picture that is starker than usual. As many as six people have been killed in a series of meticulously planned killings in this apple-hub. Terror has a vice-like grip over the locals, especially since not a single one of the killers has been caught.
It started with the emergence of an unheard-of outfit, Lashkar-e-Islam, around two months ago. The outfit stormed the Valley with posters that threatened mobile network operators, asking them to wind up their operations. Members belonging to the outfit killed a BSNL employee and a resident who had rented out his land to a telecom company to install a mobile tower.
The fallout was immediate: more than 1,000 towers shut operations before they slowly tottered back to functionality. A few days later, posters by an entity claiming to be the Kashmir branch of the Taliban were pasted on walls in the city. These, too, declared a war on major utility suppliers and warned petrol pump owners against allowing Army and police personnel to refuel their vehicles.
Over the course of the week, four more people were killed. Two of them were a part of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, a party long advocating the cause of freedom of Kashmir. The rest included a surrendered militant and a trade union leader. No group has claimed responsibility yet.
Syed Ali Geelani, leader of the Hurriyat party, has declared the killings to be a conspiracy of the Indian armed forces. The theory is gaining traction among locals who refuse to believe that killings can take place in broad daylight despite the presence of armed forces.