Two civilians and as many jawans were killed in the bloodiest day in Kashmir in a while on Sunday that saw a gunfight between security forces and militants which was followed by violent protests.
Four militants were also killed in the encounter, which prompted hundreds of people to descend on the streets of Kulgam in south Kashmir and its adjoining areas.
One of the civilians was a protester and the other was caught in the crossfire.
The opposition National Conference demanded a probe into the firing, and Kashmiri separatists called for a strike on Monday to protest crackdown by the security forces. At least 21 protesters were injured when police used bullets, pellets and tear gas shells to repel amassing demonstrators.
The protester killed in the firing was identified as 24-year-old Mushtaq Ibrahim from Sirgufwara. The youth probably died of bullet wounds, said deputy inspector general of south Kashmir SP Pani, adding that the other injured protesters are stable.
“We have referred at least 21 wounded youth to district hospital Anantnag,” said chief medical officer of Kulgam, Dr Shafi. “Most of them have been operated and are out of danger,” he said.
Dr Shafi said that the total number of injured can’t be ascertained as many of them have not provided their details in the hospitals and left for their homes fearing police action.
Many of the injured referred to Anantnag have been hit by bullets and pellets in their limbs while some have been hit in vital body parts.
Some of the injured people, who were hit in vital areas of their body, have been referred to medical institutions in Srinagar.
Security forces had cordoned off a house where the alleged militants were holed up at Kulgam’s Frisal village on Saturday night before the gunfight began Sunday morning.
Late Sunday evening, a police spokesman identified the four militants as locals of south Kashmir. While two belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen, two others were associated with Lashkar e Taiba. The spokesman said that during the initial cordon three militants managed to escape from the spot.
The two slain soldiers belonged to 1st Rashtriya Rifles and were identified as Raghubeer Singh of Uttarakhand and Bhandoriya Gopal Singh of Gujarat.
Locals said thousands of people, chanting pro-freedom slogans, participated in the funeral of the slain militants and the two civilians in Kulgam. Reports in local news portals quoting eyewitnesses said militants offered gun salute to their slain militant colleagues in Redwani Qaimoh.
NC wants probe, separatists call for strike
Jammu and Kashmir’s opposition National Conference condemned the killing of two civilians in Frisal village of Kulgam and demanded an impartial and time-bound probe.
In a statement issued from party headquarters, district president Kulgam and MLA Homshalibugh Abdul Majeed Bhat Larmi lashed out at the forces for resorting to “indiscriminate and brute force”, resulting in death of two civilians and injuries to “scores out of which two have been grievously injured.”
“No amount of apology from administration can bring the two civilians back. They didn’t deserve to die and therefore it is necessary for the government to identify and punish those who are responsible for the killings,” he said.
The MLA ridiculed the recent assurances of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti that civilians will be secured in such times.
He asked why the forces were not following the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
“SOP has been confined to papers and rhetoric. It is clear that the forces resorted to indiscriminate use of force and a killing spree,” he said.
Meanwhile, separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik have called for a complete shutdown on Monday. On February 15, they have called for “Kulgam Chalo” to protest the killing of the two civilians.
They said that such “merciless acts will never be tolerated and we are obliged to resent and raise our voice against state sponsored terrorism”.