Teargas shells fired by police killed a young man in north Kashmir on Wednesday, the fourth civilian death in clashes with security forces in two days, as violent protests threatened to spread across the Valley.
The violence is a big test for newly sworn-in chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who met defence minister Manohar Parrikar to seek a time-bound probe into the civilian deaths and said the shootings will have a “negative impact” on peace efforts.
“I spoke to the defence minister. He assured me a probe will be initiated and the culprits punished… At the same time the family (of the victims) will be compensated. Such incidents should not happen in the future,” Mehbooba said. She also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The violence erupted on Tuesday in Handwara, 85km from Srinagar, when police fired on a mob that had gathered following allegations that an army personnel molested a local girl. Under attack, the army released a video of the girl where she allegedly denies the molestation charge.
Police said they were trying to ascertain who shot the video. “The girl says she went to a wash room with a friend and a youth took her bag away. As per her statement in the video, the boy resisted her attempt to come to a police station,” said an army statement.
Authorities clamped a curfew in parts of Srinagar and Handwara but struggled to contain protests in Kupwara as thousands turned up at the funeral of three civilians who died in Tuesday’s police firing — Mohammad Iqbal, 22, Nayeem Qadir, 21, and Raja Begum, 70.
On Wednesday, a police shell hit Jehangir Ahmad Wani on the head at Drugmulla in north Kashmir, killing him on the spot.
Authorities have suspended an assistant sub-inspector for “negligence of duty” and the army regretted the killings but it did little to quell the local upsurge of anger that brought back memories of the 2010 street protests across Kashmir where over 100 people lost their lives.
The violence comes barely a week after a nationalism row at NIT Srinagar, where non-Kashmiri students clashed with local pupils.
Pressure has mounted on the state government following an outpouring of social media support for the deceased, especially Qadir, a budding cricketer who participated in an under-19 national-level camp.
(With inputs from HT Correspondents in Delhi)