The Jammu and Kashmir police has registered a case against the Army and taken up investigations.
Srinagar: Two people were killed and nine others wounded when the Army opened fire at a stone-pelting crowd in Jammu and Kashmir’s southern Shopian district on Saturday afternoon.
The condition of one of the injured civilians is stated to be critical.
The Army said its men opened fire “in self-defence” and that only after a 250-strong mob tried to lynch a Junior Commissioned Office (JCO) and snatch his service weapon. It also said that seven soldiers were injured and eleven vehicles suffered damage in the mob attack.
Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, enraged over the incident, telephoned Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, to say that such incidents only cause setback to the efforts made at political level to bring about peace and normalcy in the State.
A official statement issued in winter capital Jammu said that the Chief Minister while expressing anguish over the loss of lives in the shooting incident said that “every civilian killing, notwithstanding how erroneously made, impairs the political process in the State which has been put on track after hard work by all political parties”.
The statement said that the Defence Minister assured the Chief Minister that she would seek a detailed report on the incident and would impress upon the field formations that mechanisms put in place are strictly adhered to so that such incidents do not recur in future.
Shopian and some neighbouring areas have been tense since Wednesday when two militants were killed during a fire fight with the security forces.
A local teenager was also killed and two girls including the sister of one of the slain militants were critically injured when the security forces fired live ammunition to disperse protesters near the encounter site.
Reports said that on Saturday afternoon an Army convoy came under attack by a stone-pelting mob in Shopian’s Ganowpora village. The soldiers on board responded by opening fire, injuring eleven persons. Two of them succumbed on way to or at hospital, the officials said.
The J&K police has registered a case and taken up investigations. “We’ve registered an FIR and taken up investigations into the shooting incident,” said Shopian’s SSP Shriram Ambarkar.
Kashmir’s Divisional Commissioner, Baseer Ahmad Khan, said that he has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the shooting incident and asked Shopian’s Deputy Commissioner to ensure the inquiry in completed within three weeks’ time.
The slain youth have been identified as Javed Ahmed Bhat, 20, and Suhail Javed Lone, 24. The doctors at the district hospital in neighbouring Pulwama said that Bhat was brought there with a critical head injury and succumbed soon thereafter. Lone injured in the firing incident was declared brought dead at a government-run health facility in the town of Rajpura.
The Army in a statement issued here in the evening said that its men had to open fire in self-defence to prevent the lynching of a JCO by the mob.
The statement said that an Army administrative convoy was passing through Ganowpora chowk (square) when it came under “unprovoked and intense stone pelting by a group of 100-120 stone-pelters” at around 3 pm.
It further said, “Within no time, their numbers swelled to 200-250 persons. The crowd surrounded an isolated portion of the convoy consisting of four vehicles. They caused extensive damage to these vehicles and tried to set them on fire. A JCO accompanying the convoy got hit on the head and fell unconscious suffering serious injury. The mob tried to lynch the individual and snatch his weapon. The violent crowd further closed in towards the vehicles and attempted to set them on fire.”
The statement further said, “Considering the extreme gravity of the situation the Army was constrained to open fire in self defence to prevent lynching of the JCO and burning of Government vehicle by the mob.”
The Army said that seven jawans were injured whereas eleven vehicles suffered damage in the mob attack. It also released photographs of two damaged vehicles.
The locals said that soldiers from the Army’s 14 Rashtriya Rifles had come to the village on Saturday morning to tore down the posters which carried ‘tribute’ to a local Hizb-ul-Mujahedin militant Firdous Ahmed Lone who was among those killed in Wednesday’s encounter in neighbouring Chaigund village.
They said that around 3 pm a convoy of the Army 12 Sector Rashtriya Rifles stationed at nearby Balpora village passed through the Ganowpora and some local youth hurled stones at it following which the Armymen on board opened fire at them.
The J&K police in a separate statement said the convoy of Army’s 10 Garhwal was on its way from 12 Sector Headquarters at Balpora to Maspora in Shopian when it came under heavy stone pelting at Ganowpora.
“Due to this stone pelting some Army personnel were reportedly injured. The Army personnel retaliated by firing, in which three persons were injured. Two of them later succumbed whereas the third person has been operated upon in Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences”, the police said.
‘Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL)’, an alliance of key separatist leaders, while accusing the Army of indulging in “genocide” of Kashmiri Muslims has called for a protest shutdown in the Valley on Sunday.
Kashmir’s chief Muslim cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who is one of the three leaders on JRL said, “It is shame that the Indian rights activists, humanists and civil society members have turned deaf, dumb and blind to the butchering of young Kashmiris while as the world human rights watchdogs callously watch on and do nothing”.
The authorities have decided to impose security restrictions under Section 144 CrPC in Srinagar areas and also in Shopian and Pulwama “as a precautionary measure” from Sunday morning.