As the India-controlled Kashmir marked the second year death anniversary of prominent, charismatic rebel commander Burhan Wani, the Indian government imposed a curfew to avoid clashes between the military and civilians, but defying the order, separatist leaders called for a strike and protests in Wani's hometown and the nearby areas to remember the young leader.
"The police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed in the town to prevent rallies and other pro-freedom programmes in the area. All the entry points to the area have been blocked by the government forces," the Kashmirwalla reported.
Three civilians, including a 15-year-old girl, have been reportedly killed in a fresh wave of violence in the valley that erupted Sunday.
"In view of law and order situation in South Kashmir where three civilians died in clashes with security forces on Saturday and militant Burhan Wani’s death anniversary, no fresh batch of pilgrims was allowed from Yatri Niwas base camp in Jammu on Sunday," said an official at the Yatri Niwas control room, the Hindustan Times reported.
"When I stepped out of my house with a jug in my hand to fetch milk for home, I heard a whistle from an army person and directed me to go back," said Irfan Ahmad, a local resident, the Kashmirwalla reported.
Wani, who had a massive social media following on Twitter and Facebook, is known to have inspired a generation of young adults in the valley. Wani stirred to motion, Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest of Kashmir’s militant groups, attracting dozens of new recruits through social media to the rebel movement striving for Kashmir independence.
His death was followed by many protests and further strengthened the armed rebellion in Kashmir, which had been reduced to just about 100 fighters in scattered guerrilla groups. According to official estimation, since Wani’s killing about 200 young men have joined rebel ranks, some of them after snatching weapons from soldiers and police,
A senior separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said on Twitter that "firing bullets, killing young boys and girls" reflects the "green signal" given to the Indian armed forces "to wipe off Kashmiris with absolute impunity to hold on to their territory."
"There was injustice and oppression when Burhan picked up the gun and same continues now. Not a single day passes without the bloodshed," Wani's mother, Mymoona, told Al Jazeera.
Shams Irfan, a journalist with Kashmir Life, who witnessed Wani's funeral procession two years ago, wrote that nearly 5,000 people gathered in the town square when the news of his death had barely surfaced and had yet to be made official.
"Making my way past wailing women and hundreds of protestors on motorcycles, as well as a number of quickly erected blockades outside military installations and garrisons, I reached the town square at Tral where about 5,000 people had gathered," Irfan pointed out.
"For the next two hours, people continued to pour in from Srinagar in the north and Anantnag in the south. Since there had been no official announcement to the effect, people were praying and hoping that the news about Burhan having been killed was not correct."
Standing testament to Wani's popularity in Kashmir, Irfan added, "The crowd of mourners was so dense and so immense that it took me an hour to walk a few kilometers."
"The last 500 meters, I didn’t even have to walk. The crowd carried me into the eidgah, which was packed tight, bursting beyond its capacity. The eidgah, which normally accommodates about 50,000 people at one time, was packed to the brim, and after each round of funeral prayers, people kept leaving and new mourners filled it again. By the end of the day, about 200,000 people would have joined the multiple rounds."