Three civilians, including a teenage girl, were killed in South Kashmir's Kulgam district on Saturday allegedly after security forces opened fire on protesters, the police said. A police spokesperson said five people were injured as army personnel tried to disperse the protesters.
Government forces allegedly opened fire after clashes erupted in Redwani village in Kulgam soon after troops began a cordon and search operation in the region, the Kashmir Reader reported. Security forces opened fire allegedly after local residents began to pelt stones at them. The police spokesperson was quoted as saying by PTI that a group of miscreants had pelted stones at an army patrol party as it was passing through the Hawoora Mishipora village in Kulgam.
However, The Indian Express quoted villagers as saying that the clashes broke out as security forces had detained several youths in Hawoora Mishipora, after which local residents resorted to stone-pelting. Army troops retaliated by firing at the protesters, injuring at least five, the report added.
The army, meanwhile, said that the forces showed extreme restraint in handling the situation.
A defence spokesperson said some soldiers also sustained grievous injuries in the incident as they came under heavy stone-pelting and firing from militants. "Area Domination Patrol (ADP) of the Army, while moving in general area Hawoora, Kulgam, came under heavy stone-pelting. As the ADP tried to extricate, it was chased by an aggressive and menacing crowd of 400-500 persons which kept building up and coming dangerously close," the spokesperson said.
The troops, while exercising extreme restraint, cautioned the stone-pelters, who refused to relent and hurled petrol bombs at the patrolling party, he said.
"At one point, some unidentified terrorists also fired at the column. This resulted in some soldiers sustaining grievous injuries. In response to this grave provocation and to ensure the safety of troops, the Army resorted to controlled firing which resulted in the unfortunate loss of human lives,” the spokesperson added.
He said the matter was being investigated to ascertain the facts.
The three victims — all residents of Hawoora in Kulgam — were identified as Irshad Majeed (20), Shakir Ahmed Khanday (22) and Andleeb (16). They were taken to a hospital in Frisal, 18 kilometres from Kulgam, where they succumbed to their injuries.
As the situation continues to be tense in the region, authorities have suspended mobile internet service in the districts of Kulgam and Anantnag to prevent the spread of rumours and more protests, NDTV reported. Governor of Jammu and Kashmir NN Vohra chaired a meeting after the civilian deaths to review the security in the region.
Northern Army Commander Lt General Ranbir Singh was invited to participate in the discussions, he said. Expressing deep anguish over the loss of civilian lives, Vohra reiterated the importance of the Army and all security forces strictly adhering to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage, even in situations of extreme provocation, the Raj Bhavan spokesperson said. The Governor also re-emphasized the importance of sustained collaborative action and synergy between the armed forces and the state police with the civil administration in dealing with difficult situations to prevent the loss of civilian lives, he added. Vohra was briefed by the heads of security forces on issues relating to security management and the arrangements made for safe conduct of the ongoing Amarnath Yatra.
The news of the clashes comes even as the government has heightened security across the state ahead of the death anniversary of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on Sunday. The government has also imposed restrictions on the movement of civilians in several parts of Srinagar, and imposed a curfew in Wani's hometown, Tral.
The protests erupted as the Valley was observing a shutdown, called by separatist leaders in response to National Investigation Agency detaining separatist leader Asiya Andrabi.
Meanwhile, the National Conference has condemned the civilian killings. Party's provincial president (Kashmir) Nasir Aslam Wani condemned the killing of three civilians in Kulgam allegedly in security forces' firing. "We condemn the killings. We had hoped that such killings would stop but it was still continuing. We appeal to the governor to stop these killings," he said.
Sagar said the NC had a clear policy that “oppression and suppression...are no options. It is a political issue and has to be resolved politically”.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jul 07, 2018 22:41 PM