Srinagar: The army on Tuesday expressed regret for the death of three civilians in firing by its troops and announced an inquiry into the incident, while a court directed the police to register a case against one of their own for the killing of a Srinagar resident.
The developments marked another day of tension in Kashmir as the toll touched 44, citizens had to go without newspapers despite the end of a three-day publication ban, and chief minister Mehbooba Mufti faced widespread criticism over her adviser’s claim that she had not approved the media blackout.
In Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed led a ‘Kashmir Caravan’ from Lahore to Islamabad to protest the deaths in Jammu and Kashmir, vowing to march to the Indian state. With the Nawaz Sharif government planning to observe a “black day to express solidarity with Kashmiris” on Wednesday, strict restrictions are expected to be imposed in the Valley .
Terming the civilian deaths on Monday in south Kashmir’s Qazigund “unfortunate”, a defence spokesman said, “The army deeply regrets the unfortunate loss of life in the incident… where troops were forced to open fire when a mob turned violent, resorting to heavy stone-pelting, and attempted to snatch the weapons of soldiers. An inquiry has been ordered.”
A man and a woman were killed in the firing while another woman succumbed to her injuries on Tuesday.
The police also felt the heat as Srinagar chief judicial magistrate Masrat Shaheen ordered an FIR against a deputy superintendent of police accused of killing Shabir Ahmad in cold blood in his house on July 10. Witnesses and sources claimed Ahmad was targeted as he had a history of stone-pelting. His family maintains he was shot at close range.
The court order quoted Ahmad’s father as saying a police party headed by DSP Yasir Qadri barged into his home, smashed windowpanes and assaulted his wife. When Ahmad intervened, “the police officer took out his pistol and fired two shots at him, resulting in his death on the spot”. Seeking an investigation, the court listed the matter for hearing on July 28.
Ten days after security forces killed militant commander Burhan Wani in a gunfight on July 8, the Valley remained on edge and curfew-bound. The annual Amarnath Yatra was suspended for the third time in the same period. And Srinagar-based newspapers have not printed since Saturday when copies were seized during midnight raids by police.
On Monday, Amitabh Mattoo, political adviser to the CM, told NDTV the gag order was imposed without Mehbooba’s knowledge and consent.
“We want them to own up to the ban and want their assurance that there will be no hurdles in staff movement and distribution of newspapers,” Rashid Maqdoomi, printer and publisher of Greater Kashmir, the Valley’s largest circulating daily, said.