Srinagar remained on edge on Saturday after three grenade explosions in the span of three hours, and fierce protests over the death of a 21-year-old who had been run over and killed by a CRPF vehicle a day earlier. Qaiser Amin Bhat, who was among the hundreds who had turned out to protest against the firing of tear gas shells outside the Jama Masjid on May 25, was knocked down by a CRPF vehicle at Srinagar’s Nowhatta.
Doctors at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, where he was taken, said Bhat died of “lung contusion” late Friday evening. Another youth, Younus, who was also admitted to the hospital with injuries, is reported to be stable.
While Bhat’s family said he fell as the vehicle hit him, the CRPF spokesperson in Srinagar alleged that a mob charged at one of their vehicles in which one of the officers of the 28th Battalion, Second-in-Command S S Yadav, was travelling. “The officer was there to survey the deployment on Friday. The vehicle came under attack from hundreds of youth in the area. They attempted to move out of there and had they not done that, they would have been overpowered and lynched,” he said, adding that the officer was accompanied by four escort personnel and a driver. “The personnel in the vehicle were carrying weapons but they did not fire, despite coming under attack,” he said.
Separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, however, said the presence of forces in the area was “like a red rag to a bull”. “A lot of people had gathered in the area to protest against the firing of tear gas shells inside the mosque last Friday. There was no visible police presence there yesterday but the people saw one paramilitary vehicle and it caught their attention.”
Bhat’s funeral, which was held at the ‘marytrs’ graveyard’ on Saturday morning, saw heavy police deployment. As protesters gathered to take out a funeral procession, police fired tear gas shells and allowed only a few members of the family at the funeral. After both his parents died in 2010, Bhat and his two sisters had been living with their aunt in Srinagar’s Dalgate.
As the evening progressed, Srinagar grew tense as news of the grenade explosions came in. Six people, including four CRPF personnel and two civilians, were injured in the grenade explosions.
The first grenade exploded at Fateh Kadal, which had been cordoned off following clashes at Bhat’s funeral. Three CRPF personnel and a woman were injured here. This was followed by two more grenade explosions — one at Maisuma in central Srinagar, injuring one CRPF jawan and a civilian, and the other near the police control room. No injuries were reported in the third explosion.
Taking cognisance of the Nowhatta incident, the J&K Police lodged two FIRs on Saturday – “one for stone pelting and the other with regard to an accident,” Srinagar SSP Imtiaz Parray told The Sunday Express.
This in the second case in less than a month of a protester being run over by a vehicle belonging to the security forcee. On May 5, 22-year-old Adil Ahmad Yadoo, who was protesting against an encounter, was run over by a police vehicle.