In an encounter that lasted six hours, three militants were killed and an assistant commandant of the CRPF injured in Chattabal area of Srinagar city on Saturday. As protests broke out in the area after the encounter, a 22-year-old civilian, Adil Ahmad Yadoo, was crushed by a police vehicle. While the state government said the “mowing down of the youngster looks deliberate”, the J&K Police called it an “accident”, and said it had initiated proceedings against the driver of the vehicle, a bullet-proof bunker.
Police identified the three militants as belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and said they had launched a cordon and search operation in the Chattabal area at 4 am on Saturday, following leads. “The hiding terrorists fired upon the joint search party,” the police said, resulting in the encounter.
Two of the killed militants were identified as Fayaz Ahmad Hamal and Showkat Tak, both locals. Hamal belonged to Khanqah in downtown Srinagar and, police said, had links with militants before formally joining the LeT in April 2017. Tak, from Pulwama, was reportedly an “A++” category militant, and a district commander of the LeT who joined militant ranks in October 2011. Hundreds participated in the funeral held for Hamal, at Khanqah.
Late on Saturday evening, at least two militants appeared at the grave of Hamal at Srinagar’s “martyrs’ cemetery” at Eidgah, and fired simultaneously shots in the air before disappearing. Although militants offering a gun salute to fallen associates is common in South Kashmir, this was the first time in two decades that militants had appeared at the grave of a slain colleague.
Police also claimed to have foiled a major militant attack, and said it had recovered AK-47 rifles, magazines, Underbarrel Grenade Launchers (UBGLs), grenades, wire cutters, medical kits and navigational maps from the site of the encounter. “On the basis of the materials recovered, it is assessed the group was intending to carry out some major terror attack,” a police statement said.
The injured CRPF officer is undergoing treatment at the Army’s 92 Base Hospital.
Shortly after the encounter ended, around 1 pm, a video emerged on social media of Yadoo being run over by a police vehicle. In the video, the 22-year-old can be seen running after a police vehicle, and being closely followed by another. The second vehicle is then seen crushing him, as gunshots are heard in the background. Other protesters following close behind are seen lifting him up.
DGP S P Vaid said, “Since a death has taken place, a case has been registered and the legal course of action will be followed.”
J&K Public Works Minister and official spokesperson of the J&K government Naeem Akhtar told The Sunday Express, “On the face of it, the mowing down of the youngster looks deliberate and police will treat this as such… Instructions to police on being careful at encounter sites are reiterated ad nauseam, but individual responses in the heat of the moment cannot be calculated.”
Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tweeted a video of the incident and said, “How a murder was committed by the forces today and then brazenly denied! Is there no sense of humanity left in India?”
Speaking to The Sunday Express, Mirwaiz said, “The way in which the young boy was run over, it clearly indicates the attitude of police. This is totally inhuman.”
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti condemned the killing of civilians in various parts of the Valley over 24 hours, including two in another incident in Hajin. In a statement, she said, “With the killing of civilians, nobody’s interests are served but we are plunging the state into uncertainty and chaos.”