THREE PERSONS, including a 16-year-old girl, were killed and two injured when security personnel opened fire on protesters in Kulgam, in South Kashmir, on Saturday, on the eve of militant commander Burhan Wani’s
second death anniversary.
The deaths triggered fresh protests in several parts of South Kashmir. The three who were killed have been identified as Andleeb (16), a Class VIII student, Irshad Majeed Lone (20), a college student, and Shakir Ahmad Khanday (22), a labourer.
The incident occurred around noon, when soldiers opened fire on stone-throwing protesters at Hawoora-Mishipora village of Qaimoh in Kulgam district.
“An Army patrol in district Kulgam, while moving through Hawoora-Mishipora area this afternoon, was pelted (at) by the miscreants. Consequently, Army tried to disperse the miscreants and, in the process, five individuals sustained injuries,” J&K Police said in a statement. “The injured persons were evacuated to a nearby hospital. However, later three persons succumbed to injuries, including a girl, while two others are stated to be stable. Police have started investigations into the matter,” it said.
“An area domination patrol (ADP) of Army, while moving in general area of Hawoora, Kulgam, came under heavy stone-pelting. As the ADP tried to extricate, they were chased by an aggressive and menacing crowd of 400-500 persons, which kept building up and came dangerously close. Troops, while exercising extreme restraint, cautioned the stonepelters, who, however, failed to relent and repeatedly threw petrol bombs and stones at the patrol party. At one point of time, some unidentified terrorists also fired on the column. This resulted in some soldiers receiving grievous injuries. In response to this great provocation and to ensure security of own troops, controlled firing was resorted to by the Army which resulted in unfortunate loss of human lives. The matter is being investigated to ascertain facts on ground,” said Defence spokesperson Col Rajesh Kalia.
Villagers said the protests began after some Army personnel reached the area, beat up and detained some youths. Ghulam Ahmad, a resident, said the brother of a militant was beaten up. He alleged that the soldiers also entered a school in the village and beat up some students and teachers.
“They (Army) came in three-four vehicles and started beating up whoever came in their way. They didn’t even spare the students and teachers,” he alleged. “This angered the villagers, and they came out to protest, but the Army opened fired on them,” he claimed.
“They opened indiscriminate fire, targeting the protesters,” alleged Abdul Salam, a resident of Hawoora. The injured were taken to the Primary Health Centre (PHC) at Frisal, where three were declared dead.
J&K Governor N N Vohra convened a high-level meeting to review the security situation in the aftermath of the deaths. Mobile internet services have been suspended in South and Central Kashmir.
“Expressing deep anguish on the loss of civilian lives, including a teenage girl, the Governor reiterated the vital importance of laid-down standard operating procedures (SOP) being most strictly adhered to by Army and all security forces to avoid incidents of civilian casualties and collateral damage even in situations of extreme provocation,” a Raj Bhavan spokesman said.
“The Governor convened a high-level meet to review the security situation in Kashmir Valley, in context of the incident earlier in the day. The Governor had especially invited Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, Northern Army commander, to participate in the discussions,” he said.
Meanwhile, political parties across the mainstream-separatist divide condemned the deaths. “We condemn these civilian killings. We hope that such incidents will stop,” said National Conference general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar. “We appeal to the Governor that such incidents should not happen again. We have been saying that the military option is no option. This is a political issue and needs a political solution,” he said.
The Congress said the deaths were “high condemnable, disappointing and detrimental to peace initiatives”. “Since the day Governor’s rule was imposed in the state, the level of anger among the people had declined to a large extent… But the killings that happened in Kulgam today will again vitiate the atmosphere in the Valley,” said G A Mir, state Congress president.
Mir also urged the youth to maintain peace, saying the “pelting of stones will certainly invite action by the forces”.
Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tweeted: “Firing bullets, killing young boys and girls, reflect the green signal given to the Indian Armed Forces to wipe off Kashmiris with absolute impunity to hold on to their territory.”
The separatists had called a shutdown in the Valley on Saturday to protest against Asiya Andrabi’s detention. The shutdown will continue on Sunday, the second death anniversary of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. The government has stepped up security across Kashmir, fearing protests and possible militant attacks on Wani’s death anniversary.