Seven civilians were killed and several injured when security forces allegedly opened fire at clashing protesters at the encounter site in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district in which three militants and an Army jawan were killed on Saturday.
While mobile internet services have been suspended in several parts of the Valley as a precautionary measure, police appealed the citizens to maintain calm and stay away from the encounter site.
*An encounter broke out after security forces launched a search operation in Monghama area in Pulwama’s Sirnoo village based on inputs about the possible presence of militants in the area.
*According to a statement released by J&K Police, an Army jawan was killed and another was injured in the gunbattle.
*Three militants were killed in the gunfight and their bodies were handed over to their families after the completion of medico-legal formalities, police said. One of the slain militants was identified as Zahoor Ahmad Thoker, son of Abdul Majid Thoker. Police said Zahoor had left the Army last year to join Hizbul Mujahideen, a terror group. He was a known militant commander and was wanted in connection with a series of terror-related cases, including attacks on security establishments.
*There were protests and stone-pelting by villagers as Army and police vehicles were leaving the encounter site. Following which, security forces opened fire at protesters. However, according to the police statement, locals which thronged the encounter site got caught in the gunfire. The injured were rushed to the hospital where seven of them succumbed to their injuries. The condition of the remaining injured are said to be stable, police said.
*Following this, the state police appealed the citizens to stay away from the encounter site as it is a prohibited zone keeping in mind the nature of the encounter.
*Mobile internet services were suspended in several parts of the Valley as a precautionary measure. The services have been barred in four districts of south Kashmir, Srinagar, Bandipora and Sopore township in Baramulla and Handwara in Kupwara district. The internet speeds were also throttled in Budgam and Ganderbal districts, officials said. The mobile internet services continued to work as usual in the remaining areas of Baramulla and Kupwara districts.
*Political parties lashed out at Governor Satya Pal Malik, with former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti asking “is this what was expected from the Governor’s rule?”. “No probe enough to bring back the dead innocent civilians. South Kashmir has been reeling under fear for the last six months. Is this what was expected from the Governor’s rule? The administration has failed in securing civilian lives. Deepest condolences to the bereaved.” She added: “How long are we going to shoulder the coffins of our youngsters? So many civilians killed today post encounter in Pulwama. No country can win a war by killing its own people. I strongly condemn these killings, and once again appeal for efforts, to stop this bloodbath.” J&K has been under the rule of the Governor who had dissolved the Assembly last month.
*National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also slammed the Governor for failing to ensure peace in the “troubled Valley”. “The administration of Governor Malik has one task and one task only – to focus on the security of the people of J&K and restore peace to a troubled valley. Sadly, it appears that’s the only thing the administration is not doing. Publicity campaigns and full-page ads don’t bring peace,” he said.
*To protest against the killed, separatists, under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, have called for a three-day strike in the state. The separatists have also asked people to march to the headquarters of the Army’s Chinar Corps at Badamibagh on Monday. “#PulwamaMassacre, Bullets and pellets rain! As Govt of India has decided to kill Kashmiri’s through its #ArmedForces who control us, JRL and people will march towards Badami Bagh Army cantonment on Monday 17 Dec to ask GOI to kill all of us at one time rather than killing us daily (sic),” Mirwaiz wrote on Twitter. In another tweet, he said, “From today onwards for three days mourning and complete protest strike will be observed all across.”
*Former minister and chairman of People’s Conference Sajjad Lone tweeted: “Extremely disturbing news coming from Pulwama. The administration needs to seriously evaluate the costs of its operations. If there is even a remote chance of civilians getting killed during military operations it is better to call off such operations. My heartfelt thoughts with the families of those who lost their lives in Pulwama. I just pray that Almighty takes us out of the perpetual state of mourning that we seem to have been sucked into. And also hope that administration abandons its Rambo mindset. The preparedness of security forces would in the Pulwama context be the ability to make the distinction between combatants and non-combatants. If u end up killing 7 civilians in order to kill 3 militants. It is time for heads to roll. We can’t afford a state of impunity.”