Volatile south Kashmir on boil as Kulgam woman dies after 'detention' of younger brother by Indian Army
Resistance to arbitrary arrest of youths suspected to be linked with separatist groups or militants, and scrutiny of their mobile phones, has become a rallying point for anti-government and anti-India protests in Kashmir
Kulgam: The mysterious death of a 23-year-old student on Thursday at her home after she heard about the alleged detention and assault on her brother by the Indian Army has put the volatile south Kashmir on boil yet again.
According to family members, the victim, identified as Rifat Jan was at her home when her phone rang and the caller allegedly told her that her brother was dragged out of a passenger vehicle by the Indian Army soldiers and taken to a camp in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
"The moment she heard the news, she started sweating profusely," Naseema, the victim's aunt said as the family members and hundreds of people made preparations for the last rites of the girl.
Soon after Rifat, 23, disconnected the call, she told her aunt that her brother would be killed and that even if they (the army) would leave him, he would spend the rest of his life on crutches. Soon after, she lost her consciousness and collapsed instantly, the aunt said.
Teh victim's brother, Hidaithual Rather, was travelling with four friends when a unit of the Indian Army’s Rashtriya Rifles stationed at Ashmuji camp in south Kashmir's Kulgam district, ordered them out and kept them in detention for fifteen minutes. The brother, however, denied that he was beaten by the army.
"My detention became the reason for the death of my sister," Hidaithual said as the pallbearers carried his sister's body for the last rite on Thursday. "I was dragged out of the passenger and forcefully detained along with four other people. We were kept in Ashmuji camp for fifteen minutes. Then we were let off,” Hidaithual, added.
Arbitrary arrest of youths suspected to be linked with separatist groups or militants, and scrutiny of their mobile phones for pictures of militants is a common practice for security forces in south Kashmir. Of late, resistance to these arrests and mobile phone checks has become a rallying point for anti-government and anti-India protests in Kashmir.
In one such protest, a youth was killed when the army fired at locals after they protested against the checking of their mobile phones. Protests soon broke out across the volatile district, which is at the forefront of an agitation against New Delhi and where most of the militants have been killed during this year.
The family members of the girl claim she died of a heart attack after she heard the news about the detention of her brother by the army. The Jammu and Kashmir police and the army, however, have said that no detentions or arrests were made on that fateful day.
"We had left for the camp to plead for his release. When we almost reached the camp, the family members called and told us that Rifat has suffered heart attack," Asif Ahmad Rather, the victim's elder brother said.
At her funeral, slogans against India and the army reverberated in the air and mourners pledged to avenge the death of the girl who had recently completed her graduation. The Jammu and Kashmir Police said in a statement that the girl was brought dead to district hospital Kulgam and heart attack has been prima facie reported as the cause of the death.
"Some rumours are being circulated that she died due to heart attack when army picked up his brother. The news circulated is totally baseless as army has not picked up anybody from Ashmuji area," a police spokesperson said.
Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, the medical superintendent of Kulgam hospital said that the team of doctors, who attended the victim, did not specify the cause of death in the report.
"She was brought dead to the hospital. They told the police also that she had heard the news of her brother’s detention when she collapsed," Bhat said. The other doctors are tight-lipped about the case and refused to speak on the issue.
Srinagar-based defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia, while refuting the allegations, also said that the Army did not thrash or pick up any youth. "These are all baseless allegations,” he said.
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