Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR: At least seven persons were injured when the police stalled a protest march in the Rafiabad area of Baramulla district, where thousands took to the streets on Saturday demanding stern action against those responsible for killing three youths in an alleged fake encounter in Kupwara district.

Refusing to bury the bodies, people from Nadihal village, to which the youths belonged, and adjacent areas started a march towards the district headquarters. However, the police, deployed in strength, stopped them near Chakla. This led to clashes and the police fired rubber bullets and teargas shells and caned the protesters, who also shouted slogans against the Army and its agents.

Long after the police dispersed the crowd, the bodies — which had been exhumed on Friday — were buried amid anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.

The police have already picked up Bashir Ahmad and his accomplices, Ashraf Gazi and Fayaz Ahmad. They were allegedly involved in getting Mohammad Shafi, Shehzad Ahmad and Riyaz Ahmad arrested and killed by the Army in a “fake encounter” in the Machil sector on April 30. The slain Rafiabad youths were dubbed militants.

While Bashir was working as a special police officer, Fayaz was working with the Territorial Army. The locals demanded that Bashir's brother Abdul Qayoom be also arrested, alleging they were also involved in the disappearance of a youth and the killing of another civilian in the area three years ago.

The police have registered a murder case in connection with the death of the Rafiabad youths. Kashmir zone Inspector-General Farooq Ahmad confirmed that no Army official had been booked as yet. “We are on the job.”

However, reliable sources told The Hindu that two senior officers of 14 Rajput, the unit involved in the incident, were being recalled for facing investigation.

The unit left the Kashmir Valley soon after the “encounter” as part of routine movement, after completing its tenure.

Shutdown call

Meanwhile, normal life in Kashmir remained paralysed on Saturday in response to a shutdown call given by the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference against Congress president Sonia Gandhi's visit to Jammu.