Two youths were killed and one critically injured when army personnel opened fire on protesters in Shopian, police said on Saturday. While police have registered a case of murder against the army, the state government has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident. Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Shopian, Shriram Ambarkar Dinkar said the incident occurred during “a routine administrative movement of 10 Garhwal Rifles”.
“It was not an operation or patrol… They (army personnel) were pelted with stones at Ganawpora village. The army personnel opened fire, which led to casualties,” he said. Confirming two deaths, Dinkar said: “We have registered an FIR under Section 302 (murder)… we are mentioning 10 Garhwal in the FIR.”
An army spokesman said they opened fire in “self defence” to prevent the “lynching of a Junior Commissioned Officer and burning of vehicles”. Chief Medical Officer, Shopian, Dr Abdul Rashid Najar, told The Sunday Express that three youths had suffered bullet injuries in the head. “We received three youths at our hospitals. While two of them — Javid Ahmad and Suhail Ahmad — were brought dead, the third — Rayees Ahmad — was critically injured,” he said. “The critically injured youth was referred to Srinagar,” he added.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti called up Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to express anguish over the killings. “Every civilian killing… impairs the political process in the state, which has been put on track after hard work by all political parties,” an official release by the state government quoted her as telling Sitharaman.
“The Defence Minister assured the Chief Minister that she would seek a detailed report in this regard and would impress upon the field formations that mechanisms put in place are strictly adhered to so that such incidents do not recur in future,” said the release. Villagers said the stone-pelting began when the army personnel tried to remove banners put up at the graveyard of a local militant, Firdous Ahmad, who was killed in an encounter on Wednesday.
“They (army personnel) first came around 11 am. They wanted to remove the banners from the militant’s grave. The youth present at the spot resisted the move and threw stones at them. The army personnel left the place,” said Shiraz Ahmad, a resident of Ganawpora village. “They returned to the village at about 3 pm, in around 30 vehicles this time. The youth again pelted stones, and the army personnel opened fire without any warning,” he claimed.
Defence spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia said: “The army administrative convoy came under intense stone pelting by a group of 100-120… Within no time, the number swelled to 200-250 persons. The crowd surrounded an isolated portion of the convoy consisting of four vehicles. They caused extensive damage to these vehicles and tried to set them on fire. A Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) accompanying the convoy was hit on his head and fell unconscious suffering serious injury. The mob tried to lynch the individual and snatch his weapon. The violent crowd further closed in towards the vehicles and attempted to set them on fire.”
“Considering the extreme gravity of the situation, the army was constrained to open fire in self defence to prevent lynching of JCO and burning of vehicle by the mob. A total of seven army men suffered injuries and extensive damage was caused to 11 vehicles,” he said.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan said that an inquiry has been ordered into the incident. “I have asked the Deputy Commissioner, Shopian, to complete the inquiry within 20 days,” he said. Meanwhile, the joint separatist leadership called for a shutdown on Sunday to protest against the killings.