SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Police has arrested the father of seven month old girl, Maryam, whose mother was killed during an encounter between militants and security forces in North Kashmir last December, on charges of stone-pelting.

Ishfaq Ahmad Wani, a resident of Chowgal in Handwara, has been arrested on stone-pelting charges, officials said, “He has been filmed leading stone throwers during two protests in Handwara. He was called for questioning and arrested later,” reports said.

Wani's wife, Misra Bano, was killed in Unisoo village on December 11 when forces had laid siege of the area following inputs about the presence of militants there. Wani then said his wife was shot by security forces after ordering them to come out of their home on the night of encounter.

The killing had sparked protests and shutdown across Kashmir. Three militants were also killed in the encounter that took place in the frontier Kupwara district. After her mother’s death, Maryam was being taken care of by her father.

“His (Maryam's father's) arrest goes against all the norms of humanity. Only five months ago, her mother was snatched from her. Now she has been separated from her father also. How can an infant live without her parents,” one of her relatives said.

The family of the infant has appealed the state government and the police administration to release her father on humanitarian grounds, “She had become attached to her father after Misra’s death and if he too is gone, it won’t be good for her,” the relative said.

A senior police officer said Wani has been arrested on the basis of “concrete evidence” regarding his involvement in stone-pelting incidents, “We have conclusive evidence against him. But we will consider the case on humanitarian grounds,” the officer said.

Maryam is one of the thousands of orphans who have become victims of relentless violence in Kashmir since an armed insurgency broke out in the region in early nineties. According to estimates, more than hundred thousand persons have died after the region was thrown into turmoil.

Since the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in 2016, the region has witnessed some of the fiercest clashes between security forces and civilian population, resulting in killings of over 150 civilian protesters and over 200 militants, most of them local youths who were inspired by the charismatic commander to join militancy.

(Cover Photograph Kashmir Observer)