Two die in firing on stone-throwing protesters in Kashmir

A file photo of security personnel on duty in Srinagar.

A file photo of security personnel on duty in Srinagar.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Two civilians were killed and over six others injured when the Army opened fire on “stone-throwing protesters” in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on Saturday afternoon. There are conflicting versions about the sequence of events and an inquiry has been ordered by the government.

The firing incident took around 3 p.m. at Shopian’s volatile Ganowpora square as local protesters clashed with an Army patrol. The area has been tense after a local militant, Firdous Ahmad, was killed in an encounter on January 24.

A Srinagar-based Army spokesman said around 120 locals resorted “to unprovoked and intense stone-pelting” on the Army. “The stone throwers’ number swelled to around 250 and they surrounded an isolated portion of the convoy, comprising four vehicles. A junior commissioned officer (JCO) was hit on the head and he suffered serious injury,” said the Army spokesman.

The spokesman said the mob “tried to lynch the JCO and snatch his weapon, besides trying to set the vehicles on a fire.”

Considering the extreme gravity of the situation, the Army spokesman said, the soldiers “opened fire in self-defence as seven Army men suffered injuries.”

Chief Medical Officer of Shopian Dr. Bashir Ahmad confirmed the deaths of two locals in the firing. The hospital treated over six civilians and referred one critically-wounded to a Srinagar hospital.

The deceased, identified as Javed Bhat and Suhail Lone, “were hit by the bullets above the abdomen”, according to hospital sources.

Locals alleged the stone pelting was “not intense and the Army used disproportionate force to disperse the protesters and fired directly into the crowd”.

“The Army’s convoy was hit by stones when it tried to remove a green flag, with pro-freedom slogans, hoisted on January 26 in the area,” an eyewitness told The Hindu over the phone.

Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir) Baseer Ahmad Khan appointed deputy commissioner of Shopian to head a magisterial inquiry into the incident. “A report will be submitted within 20 days,” said Mr. Khan. The police have also lodged an FIR.

The killings sparked fresh protests in Shopian. Separatists leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, called for a Valley-wide shutdown on Sunday. “It’s a dance of death. Unfortunately, rights activists have turned a blind eye to the killings of the trigger-happy forces,” alleged the Mirwaiz. He described the probe “a mere eyewash”.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 11:19:18 AM |

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