After Baramulla youth is shot,Omar breaks down: ‘What will I tell people?’

'What will I tell the people... that it is for this that we have been upholding the national flag?'

Written by Arun Sharma | Jammu | Published:March 6, 2013 1:49 am

An “angry and sad” Omar Abdullah broke down in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly,wondering what answer he would give people,after Rashtriya Rifles soldiers allegedly shot dead a 24-year-old youth in Baramulla Tuesday.

The alleged “unprovoked” and “indiscriminate” shooting,which left one other person with gunshot wounds in his foot,triggered massive street protests across Kashmir. As fears of violence rose,the government pulled the plug on mobile Internet services in the Valley.

“What will I tell the people… that it is for this that we have been upholding the national flag?” the chief minister said in the House. “I am asking myself why,why,there was firing on a procession… on a procession at which according to my information,no militant was present and no one from which opened fire?… Why,for what,and for whom?”

Tahir Ahmad Sofi,who had a postgraduate degree in social work,was shot dead by soldiers who were provoked by taunts and hoots,witnesses to the incident said. They described the firing as “indiscriminate”,and claimed that the forces reacted even though no protests were ongoing.

“In the morning,soldiers patrolled the Kaker Hamam neighbourhood of old Baramulla town. The youth hooted at them. This angered the soldiers and they barged into homes and broke doors and window panes,” said Irfan Ahmad,who said he was witness to the incidents. “Minor protests in the neighbourhood followed,but they subsided soon. However,in the afternoon,they (the soldiers) returned to the area,and were teased again by the youth. They then opened fire,” Ahmad said.

Doctors said Sofi was hit in the head and chest. Another youth,Mohammad Abass,was wounded in the foot.

Baramulla deputy commissioner Khwaja Ghulam Ahmad told The Indian Express,“There was no law and order problem in the town. It was absolutely normal. This action (firing) is uncalled for.”

Following Sofi’s death,hundreds of youth clashed with police and paramilitary forces in Baramulla. Two people were injured after police fired teargas shells to disperse the protesters. In the evening,large groups of protesters marched on the streets in Sopore,Srinagar and south Kashmir towns,raising pro-freedom slogans.

Official sources in Jammu claimed protesters in Baramulla had smashed windowpanes at the office of the deputy commissioner.

In the assembly,Omar said,“If they threw stones,were they doing it for the first time? Had we not faced them earlier?”

“I have to seek an apology for actions for which I am not responsible… I am being asked to answer questions on Afzal Guru,on the return of his mortal remains to his family,and on the use of unnecessary force by the Army. I have to answer for every bullet that they fire at civilians. What replies do I give to my people?”

“This is why I stress on the partial revocation of AFSPA,” he said.

The chief minister appeared to condone the earlier walkout of PDP members from the House in protest against the youth’s killing. “Those who have left have done the right thing. I feel much more angry than they do.”

Later in the evening,he tweeted,“Note to PDP — don’t confuse anger & sadness with helplessness. What you saw today was me angry & sad at the tragic loss of life.” In another tweet,he said,“Note to others spreading rumours about my impending resignation — I haven’t resigned. If my resignation could bring a person back to life I’d resign in a flash. My responsibility to the state & people is to ensure incidents like today’s see justice done.”

J&K Police have registered a case of murder. “We have registered an FIR against the forces,” a police spokesman said. No Army spokesperson was available for a comment.

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