Six Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were injured after their vehicle was turned upside down in Heff village of South Kashmir’s Shopian district. The CRPF contingent, returning after an encounter operation in the neighbouring village of Chillipora, came under a torrent of bricks and stones thrown by angry villagers, who had gathered to protest against the anti-militancy operation.
The encounter, which started late on Friday night, had to be called off midway after the militants managed to give a slip to the security forces, taking advantage of the dark.
It is noteworthy here that the protests recurred even after a warning was issued by Indian Army Chief, Bipin Rawat, against the hampering of anti-militancy operations by civilians, earlier this month.
Several youth were also injured after forces resorted to aerial firing to disperse the protesters who had gathered in Heff village since early Saturday morning.
A youth was hit by a bullet in his hand during the protests. He is undergoing treatment and is in a stable condition, according to locals who accompanied him to the hospital. Locals alleged that the forces damaged their houses during the clashes.
According to IG Operations, CRPF, Zulfikar Hassan, the driver of a CRPF vehicle lost control when it was confronted by protesters in Heff village which is four to five kilometers away from the encounter site.
“Six of our men received minor injuries after their vehicle turned upside down in Heff Village. The vehicle was returning from the encounter which was led by Army,” Hassan told Firstpost over phone.
“All of them are stable and are undergoing treatment,” he said.
According to the local police, militants and a joint team of forces exchanged fire last night before the operation was halted. The police said that, following specific intelligence inputs, a joint team of security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Chillipora village, late on Friday night, where two to three militants were believed to be present.
Locals said that when the operation was restarted Saturday morning there was no exchange of fire from the militants. “The militants, it looks like took the benefit of dark and managed to flee from the encounter site,” Rafiq Ahmad, a resident of Chillipora village, told Firstpost over phone.
The Jammu and Kashmir Government has issued prohibitory restrictions within a radius of three km from the site of any counter-insurgency operation. The Kashmir Police have also been asked to impose Section 144 against “unlawful assemblies” in areas where an encounter is on.
Earlier this month, Rawat issued strict warning against the people trying to help militants escape by disrupting forces engaged in anti-militancy operations. He said such people would be treated as Over Ground Workers (OWG) of militants and will be dealt strictly.
Earlier this month, the forces had to call off an operation in a Urivan village in Pulwama district after the people of almost five villages gathered to confront the forces who had launched a search-and-cordon operation. The security forces had to face intense resistance from protesters, some of whom were injured in clashes with the forces.
"It's a big problem, a challenge for us to conduct anti-militant operations now. Frankly speaking, I'm not comfortable anymore conducting operations if large crowds are around," former Northern Command head, Lt. Gen. Hooda, told Associated Press last year.
The recurring protests suggest that Gen. Rawat’s warning has fallen on deaf ears in Kashmir. People continue to risk their lives by confronting forces so that they can disrupt live encounters and help the trapped militants escape. The phenomenon of confronting forces during an encounter by civilians has posed a tough challenge to forces and the way the anti-militancy operations are conducted in Kashmir.
Updated Date: Mar 04, 2017 21:30 PM