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Situation in Kashmir can only improve if civilian killings stop’.

The National Conference leader Omar Abdullah feels that the only way the volatile situation of Kashmir can be brought under control is by putting a stop to the killing of civilians by government forces at places where government forces and besieged militants are engaged in a firefight.

Exhorting the state Governor NN Vohra to strengthen the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for security forces to ensure that no protestor is killed at the encounter sites, Omar said:  “It is true that people had hoped that after the Governor rule there will be gradual improvement in situation. But we haven’t seen it so far, particularly in south Kashmir where civilians are killed during encounters. Till that is not stopped situation will not improve.”  He was speaking to reporters at a function to mark the 18th death anniversary of Begum Akbar Jahan in Srinagar on Wednesday.

Kashmir has seen a rise in civilian killings at encounter sites during clashes between forces and protestors who swarm to a place where militants are holed up in order to break the siege and help them escape.

Police records reveal that at least 106 civilians died in forces’ firing near encounter sites since January 2017. These killings have continued in the ongoing Governor’s rule in the state following the demise of the PDP-BJP government last month.

“The ground situation is in front of our eyes. Every day there are either attacks by militants or civilian killings are taking place,” he said. The civilian killings, along with the killings of militants in forces’ action, has led to an unending cycle of protests in the Valley, particularly in southern Kashmir after the 2016 summer unrest. And at the same time the recruitment of local youth in militancy has seen no end.

“In past one and half months alone 28 youth have joined militancy,” said Omar, former chief minister. He said there were reports now that eight youth have gone missing from Kishtwar, hinting that they may have joined militancy.

“If militancy resurfaces in Kishtwar then it can prove dangerous for the state,” Omar said.

The NC leader also took a dig at previous PDP-BJP government for failing to complete dredging of River Jhelum despite spending crores of rupees. Each time there is a rainfall Jhelum swells and threatens to flood summer capital Srinagar. People are now raising questions what happened to the funds that were allocated for de-silting of Jhelum during past three years.

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