File photo of Indian Army soldiers in Kashmir. . Photograph:( Reuters )
Twenty people were killed in Kashmir on Sunday. Thirteen of them were militants, killed in three separate encounters, giving the security forces their biggest success in over a decade.
Three Army men also lost their lives in the operations, but it was the deaths of four civilians and the injuries to 55 people in the crossfire between the security forces and militants and in clashes with the forces that had the Jammu and Kashmir government worried.
It all started at midnight when the sounds of gunfire were in heard in Anantnag's Diyalgam village, in where an encounter broke out between security forces and militants. One Hizbul militant was killed and another captured alive.
The operation started at around 12.45 am, concluded at 3 in the morning.
The Anantnag SSP, who was leading the operations, said he had tried to get both militants to surrender, but one of them fired and the security forces retaliated.
" I bought the family of both the militants who were in same locality where militants were trapped, they even made appeal to them to surrender and I also assured them that if they surrender they will not be harmed, we delayed operation almost by about 1 hour but when one of them fired on us we retaliated and in the encounter we killed one but were successful in capturing one alive," the police officer said.
Post-encounter searches were still on in Diyalgam when the focus shifted to the militant bastion and apple town of Shopian.
The security forces had managed to cordon off dozens of militants in two places.
The first strike was on the Dragad-Sugan village where, intelligence inputs said, as many as 11 militants were hiding in a house. Sources said the militants belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar e Taiba, and that it was a scheduled meeting between the two groups to chalk out a future strategy.
The militants and the security forces were soon exchanging heavy fire.
It is believed four of the 11 militants, including top Lashkar commander "Zinat-ul-Islam", were able to escape but the other 7 were killed in a five-hour-long gun battle. Two civilians were shot in the exchange of fire, with one of them falling to his injuries later.
They seven slain militants were identified as local Hizbul militants Adil Ahmed Thoker of Humhuna, Nazim Dar of Nagbal, Ubaid Shafi Malla of Trenz, Yawar Itoo of Safanagri-Zainapora, Rayees Ahmed Thoker of Padarpora, Ashfaq  Malik of Pinjura, and ZubairTuray of the main town of Shopian. All fo them were from Shopian district.
Of the seven, Zubair Turray and Ashfaq Malik were A++ category militants, the rest being classified as C category.
At the same time, another bloody encounter was in progress just a few kilometres away in Kachdoora village as were heavy clashes between the police-CRPF and locals.
In the meantime, the top brass of the security forces including the J&K DGP, GOC 15 Corps Army and IG CRPF held a press conference giving details of the ongoing encounters.
They said eight militants, two civilians, and two Army soldiers had been killed in the three encounters. They added that 25 people had received pellet injuries, and 6 had received bullet injuries.
They also claimed that two of the militants killed had been involved in the killing of Lt Umar Fayaz in Shopian in May 2016. "Two of the slain militants were involved in the killing of young army officer Umar Fayyaz in Shopian in May last and today we avenged that," said Lt Gen A K Bhatt, GoC 15 Corps".
At the same press conference, Vaid and the IG CRPF again appealed to the people, especially parents, to keep their sons away from encounter sites. They added however that they would not shy away taking strict action against whomsoever disturbs the operations and made clear that such anti-militancy operation would continue. They also, again, urged the local militants to surrender
"I will like to make it clear that our operations against militants will not stop,” IG CRPF Zulfiqar Hassan said.
“It is painful for all of us to see the loss of young lives. I appeal to the parents of boys who have taken the wrong path that they should convince their wards to leave the path of violence,” said Vaid.
The toll from the three encounters later went up to 20, when Vaid confirmed that five bodies of militants had been recovered from the Kachdoora encounter site. He added that one Army soldier had died from his injuries and that two more civilians had died in the clashes.
"We have recovered 5 militant bodies from debris of kachdoora encounter site, and two more civilians have died in clashes and its unfortunate that we lost one more soldier," said Vaid.
But massive protests broke out in south Kashmir, largely in Shopian, and in Srinagar as soon as news spread that all the militants gunned down had been local Kashmiris. The four civilian deaths only added to the anger.
Smelling trouble, the authorities suspended mobile internet services across the Valley to stop rumour mongering train services was also suspended.
The Joint Resistance Leadership meanwhile called for two days of shutdown in the Kashmir valley.
A statement was issued by Syed Ali Shah Gillani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yaseen malik, saying: "Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) has asked people to suspend business and other activities for today and tomorrow, and offer funeral prayers in absentia at 4 pm across Kashmir valley".
As soon the statement was published, exams which had been scheduled for Monday were postponed, with the authorities ordering schools and colleges to remain closed. Keeping the strike call in view, restrictions were imposed in the seven police station areas of Srinagar and in the Shopian, Pulwama, Kulgam and Anantnag district of south Kashmir.