Kashmir Valley shuts down after woman killed in Shopian clash between villagers, security forces

Batmaran-Wanpora: The killing of Rubeena Jan, a 25-year-old woman who left behind an 11-month-old toddler, in Shopian on Tuesday, has sparked fresh tension and calls for protests by the separatist groups in Kashmir.

As the forces have gone after militants in the Valley as part of their 'Operation All Out', the number of civilians killed during counter-insurgency operations have also shot up manifold in 2017, as compared to the last many years – the highest since last four years.

Family members told Firstpost that Rubeena, also known as Beauty, had come to her maternal home in Batmaran-Wanpora village of south Kashmir's Shopian district, three days ago, after a gap of almost six months. She had been married three years ago in the nearby Rajpora village of district Pulwama to a daily wage labourer. A few days ago, her father, Abdul Rashed Bhat, called her home to take care of her uncle, who is bedridden since the last two weeks.

 Kashmir Valley shuts down after woman killed in Shopian clash between villagers, security forces

Rubeena Jan was holding Azra, her 11-month-old girl, in her arms when she was shoot. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

On Tuesday morning, at around 10:50 am, as the government forces encircled a cluster of houses, nearly five hundred metres from Bhat's house, two militants (one of them a local) were killed during the 16-hour-long encounter that began on Monday night. When Rubeena's bedridden uncle asked her to bring him a glass of water, she went into the kitchen.

"She came back holding her 11-month-old girl, Azra, in one hand and the glass of water in the other. Out of curiosity, she pushed open a window to look at what was happening outside," Bhat said, “Suddenly, she screamed and collapsed. She was shot in her chest."

The Jammu and Kashmir police claimed that the women died in "crossfire". Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Shopian, SA Dinkar, said that militants fired upon security forces from "protesters' side" and that she was "probably killed in the crossfire."

"We are ascertaining the facts regarding the killing of the lady," he said.

On Wednesday morning, when Firstpost visited Bhat’s house, the family members offered a completely different picture than what the police described in its daily press release.

Mohammad Yakooq Bhat, the younger brother of Jan, showing the bullet mark on the window. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Mohammad Yakooq Bhat, the younger brother of Jan, showing the bullet mark on the window. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

The joint family lives in a single-storied house that faces an open ground. Almost two hundred metres from the house, forces were deployed to keep away the protesters. Mohammed Yakooq Bhat, Rubeena's younger brother, said that the moment she entered her uncle's room, she was hit, probably by fire from forces stationed at the ground during the encounter.

“She had a glass of water in one hand and when she tried to open the window and look at what was happening, the police fired," Bhat told Firstpost.

Since the forces had encircled the

The single storied residence of Abdul Rashed Bhat, where Rubeena Jan was taking care of her uncle. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

The single storied residence of Abdul Rashed Bhat, where Rubeena Jan was taking care of her uncle. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

village, the protesters fought pitched battles with them to divert their attention and help the trapped militants in escaping. The family members of Tanveer Ahmad Bhat, the local militant killed in the encounter, were also summoned to try and motivate their son to lay down the arms but that did not work.

"They were shooting and blasting explosives as if the village was a firing range. They used strong explosives to blast four residential houses and three cowsheds during the gunfight which got reduced to rubble," said Abdul Hamid Kasker, 57, a resident of the village.

Two militants, Tanveer, and a Pakistani militant, Ali Bhai, were killed in the encounter. An army soldier and a policeman of the special operations group (SOG) also sustained bullet injuries. About three dozen civilians were injured in clashes with government forces near the encounter site with 11 of them sustaining pellet injuries.

Doctors in the Pulwama district hospital told Firstpost that at least two dozen protesters injured in the clashes in the village were brought for treatment. Among them, 11 were referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment. Amid the clashes, Rubeena's family was trying to take her to the hospital but she died on the way.

The Government of India on Tuesday said that the number of civilians killed in militant-related violence this year is the highest in the last four years. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said that the number of civilians killed in militancy-related violence in the state stands at 37 till 10 December this year. However, the figure has crossed to more than 50.

One of the four houses destroyed during Tuesday's encounter. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

One of the four houses destroyed during Tuesday's encounter. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Just last week, three civilians were killed in alleged firing by security forces, sparking fresh tension and calls for protests by the separatist groups. Earlier, Maisura Akhtar, the mother of an eight-month-old girl, died in alleged army firing in north Kashmir'' Unisoo village last week. The woman died when she was trying to flee during a gunfight in which three Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were killed.

A cab driver, Asif Iqbal Bhat, was killed in alleged army firing on Saturday night outside his home when he was about to start his vehicle and ferry a family stuck in the adjoining village to their home. The army initially said it was a case of mistaken identity but the police blamed "cross-firing" for the young driver's death.

Three civilian killings in eight days have brought Kashmir to the brink yet again. Separatist-sponsored shutdown calls are back, so are the government-backed restrictions and curfews. This doesn't bode well for the Mehbooba Mufti-led state government or the 'mission' of the Centre’s new point man on Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma. Stoking anger during the winters translates into mass agitations during the summer in the Valley. But neither Mehbooba nor New Delhi seem to have learnt any lessons.

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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2017 18:47:05 IST