Clashes between protesters and police erupted after 7 civilians sustained gunshot wounds in Army’s firing on stone-throwers

The authorities on Friday imposed curfew on this south Kashmir district headquarters following clashes between protesters and the police over the Army’s firing on a group of stone-throwers after an encounter in Bubgam village in the forenoon.

Official sources said the police and security forces swooped down on Asthan Mohalla of Bubgam in the early hours of Friday over specific information about the presence of two top members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Even as Major Tanmay Rath of Rashtriya Rifles 55 Bn was critically hit in the initial round of firing and Captain Kapil of the unit sustained a gunshot wound, security forces gunned down both the militants. A head constable of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Pulwama police also sustained injuries.

The gun battle, which lasted for several hours, also left two residents of the neighbourhood injured.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (South Kashmir) Vijay Kumar, who was present in the operation, told The Hindu that the two civilians got hurt in the cross firing between the militants and security forces. The local population, however, complained that the two were victims of the Army’s “target firing.” The allegations soon circulated through mobile phones, leading to unrest at the district headquarters. Around 50 youths blocked the Rajpora Chowk and enforced a shutdown.

Violent clashes

According to reports available with the DIG, some people in the crowd shouted slogans and threw stones at an ambulance carrying the injured Major to the Army’s 92-Base Hospital. Soldiers from the escort vehicle opened fire and seven protesters sustained injuries.

The injured officer underwent a surgical procedure. All the injured civilians were admitted to three major hospitals.

Of the nine civilians, seven were reportedly stable but two described as ‘critical’ by the doctors late on Friday night.

DIG Vijay Kumar said the District Magistrate clamped curfew when unruly mobs attacked the police and the CRPF and attempted to set on fire vehicles and public property. The police failed to disperse them with baton charge and teargas. Six policemen were injured in the clashes. Late in the evening, the authorities reviewed the situation but decided to continue curfew without relaxation on Saturday.

Even after the imposition of curfew, a crowd attacked the vehicle of Assistant Commissioner Revenue of Shopian Parvez Sajjad. The vehicle was damaged and the official, his personal security officer and driver were injured.

Residents, as also paramedical staff, complained that the police and security forces went berserk at the District Hospital and roughed up a number of doctors, patients and their attendants.

Officials did not confirm the allegations of excessive force. They said the DM had ordered an inquiry and directed the Additional Deputy Commissioner to submit a detailed report on the Friday’s firing and clashes within two weeks.

Official sources identified the two militants killed as Imtiyaz Ahmad Teli alias Fahadullah Kashmiri of Lassipora, Pulwama; and Mohammad Aamir Bhat alias Khalid alias Khursheed of Handow, Shopian. The DIG claimed that both were the most wanted militants of the LeT in Pulwama-Anantnag belt. He described Fahadullah as the LeT’s “district commander” in Pulwama. They had lobbed grenades, attacked police, security forces and the civilian soft targets, he said.

“In July this year, they lobbed a hand grenade at a tourist bus near Bijbehara. Four female tourists — all from Mumbai — died and three more of the group sustained injuries,” Mr. Kumar said. In the same month, Fahadullah gunned down a police constable at Pulwama.