A five-year-old girl was wounded when suspected militants fired at fruit growers in Sopore in North Kashmir on Friday night. Three fruit growers were shot in the legs, apparently as punishment for opening their shops at the Sopore fruit mandi. The shutdown in the Valley completed 34 days on Saturday.
Srinagar District Magistrate Shahid Choudhary said efforts were being made to arrange an air ambulance to fly the wounded child, Asma Jan, to New Delhi for treatment.
Asma’s family has resisted the government’s move to shift her. Doctors have said that all four injured individuals — Mohammad Ashraf, Mohammad Ramzan, Asma, and her father Arshad Rather — are out of danger.
The suspected militants commandeered a vehicle in which two small-time fruit growers, Mohammad Ashraf and Mohammad Ramzan, were headed home to Dangerpora village in Sopore. They forced the two men to drive to the home of a prominent local fruit trader, Hameedullah Rather.
“There was a knock on the door of our house. When I opened the door, I saw them (Ashraf and Ramzan). They are known to me,” Arshad Rather, the son of Hameedullah Rather, said. “I also saw two gunmen with them. They (the militants) asked for my father.”
Arshad said he went upstairs to call Hameedullah Rather, whom he found offering prayers. “I did not think it appropriate to disturb him,” Arshad said.
“As I came down, I saw them (the militants) holding Ashraf and Ramzan to the ground. They shot them in their legs. As I reached downstairs, there was commotion, and they (the militants) fired again. I was hit in my leg, and later learned that my daughter too, was injured,” he said.
The three men and the girl were taken to Srinagar’s Bone and Joint (B&J) Hospital, where Asma was referred to the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS).
Ashraf said the militants had fired at them with pistols. “It seemed that they wanted to warn us,” he said. “They (the militants) asked why we had opened our shops when they had warned us against doing so several times.”
The Sopore fruit mandi is Asia’s second largest wholesale fruit market.
On Saturday morning, J&K Police posted on Twitter: “Terrorists fired and injured four persons including a baby girl (Usma Jan) at Dangerpora, Sopore. All injured shifted to the hospital and stated to be stable. Police on spot and investigation in progress.”
DM Choudhary tweeted: “Baby Asma of 30 months is among the injured in militant attack on fruit merchants in Sopore. She didn’t deserve this. We’ve put in all efforts to get an air ambulance ASAP to take her to Delhi for advanced medical attention. Prayers are requested.”
Asma’s uncle Ajaz Ahmad said: “Throughout the day, they (government officials) were trying to convince us that they would airlift her (Asma) to New Delhi but we didn’t agree. We told them that the doctors have told us she is fine and there is no need for sending her there. We told them if needed, we would take her outside (Kashmir) on our own.”