It was 4.10 on Friday afternoon. The loudspeakers of the Jamia Masjid, in the old city of Srinagar, had fallen silent, but a menacing crowd gathered outside, waiting for any sign of uniformed men.
Though anti-India slogans were raised, police presence was minimal. Then, a gypsy of the 128th Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) appeared at the back of the crowd. News photographers were waiting to click pictures of any clashes. The gypsy, coming from the Khanyar locality of old Srinagar, was moving slowly. When the driver noticed the protesters, he applied the brakes and waited for about a minute, a few meters from the area where the crowd had gathered. Later, the people who had gathered there saw the vehicle come near them.
The gypsy roared when it came close to the protesters, who lunged at it from all sides. One protester flung a bicycle that hit the iron mesh shield of the vehicle. The driver turned left and another protester smashed a wooden log on its rear end. Then, another protester in a blue T-shirt and jeans with his face covered, ran towards it from the front side and climbed on its top, like an action hero in a movie scene.
The driver kept maneuvering the vehicle, but the crowd followed. As he turned right, people pelted it with stones. Finally, when it moved forward, the vehicle trampled over two people. Wire services reported that the driver was attempting to flee the mob.
— ANI (@ANI) 2 June 2018
All this happened in a matter of a few minutes. The gypsy first ran over a man called Kaiser Ahmed. It appears that Ahmed's head was hit by the front of the vehicle and was also overrun by the rear tyres, even as photographers were clicking pictures. Soon afterwards, it trampled another man, Muhammad Younis. While Younis is fighting for his life at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital, Ahmed succumbed to his injuries on Friday night.
“We just could not understand what happened. Kaiser’s loud cry got buried in the noise,” Imtiyaz Ahmad Wageey, Kaiser’s friend who was at the spot, told Firstpost. Sanjay Sharma, the public relations officer of the CRPF, said that Friday's incident occurred due to the violent crowd, and stated that the forces showed extreme restraint. “One can imagine what would have happened if the mobsters had been able to open the doors of the CRPF vehicle.”
Jamia Masjid, which is close to the site of the incident, is spread over 1.4 lakh square feet, and is the centre of anti-India protests in old Srinagar. A short while before the CRPF gypsy ran over two people, its head priest and the chairperson of his faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was addressing the gathering. In his speech, Farooq said that the mosque has been the target of all rulers who ascended the throne in Jammu and Kashmir.
This was the second time in a month that a vehicle belonging to the security forces caused the death of a protester in the old city of Srinagar. On 5 May, another youth — Aadil Ahmad Yadoo — died after a police vehicle ran over him. A video clip showed the speeding vehicle first knocking him down from behind, running over him and then speeding away.
The driver of the vehicle was detained, but the fate of the case remains unknown. Ghulam Ahmad Yadoo, Adil's father, said his son stitched bags at night to take care of a large family, and went to school during the day. “If people had not taken videos of the incident on their phones, the police would have claimed that it was a road accident," he said. "Mowing down people was the only thing that India had not done yet in Kashmir. Now, they have done this too. It appears that people will have to get used to such killings, just like they have become used to other kinds of killings," Yadoo further remarked.
In May, Adil's death had sparked protests across Srinagar. The police had then claimed it was an 'accident.' Sensing similar trouble after the death of Ahmed on 1 June, the state government snapped internet services in Srinagar on Saturday. On Friday, thousands of people shared pictures of Ahmed under the CRPF Gypsy, and the images prompted passionate commentary.
“The culture of impunity is so blatant that if security forces run over a protester and kill him, there is a sense that it is justified,” Pervaiz Imroz, a human rights lawyer, said. “The incident on Friday is a classic example of this growing trend, and the sense of normalcy which is being attached to it,” he added. If the image of Farooq Ahmed Dar being made into a human shield became the defining image of the security forces' high-handedness, the pictures of Ahmed and Younis will certainly be associated with the 'Ramzan ceasefire' and the 'new standard operating procedure' as former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah described it —
Earlier they tied people to the fronts of jeeps & paraded them around villages to deter protestors now they just drive their jeeps right over protestors. Is this your new SOP @MehboobaMufti sahiba? Ceasefire means no guns so use jeeps? https://t.co/42W6vGAPVi
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) June 1, 2018
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Updated Date: Jun 03, 2018 14:30:04 IST