The vicious cycle of death-protest-death continued unabated in Kashmir on Monday.
A day after the Jammu and Kashmir government called the CRPF “an uncontrolled force”, Tajamul Bashir (17) and Ashif Hassan Rather (9) died in firing by the force in Sopore and Baramulla, both 55 km north of Srinagar.
This brings the number of civilian deaths at the hands of troops to eight in 15 days, three of them in the past 24 hours.
Rather was part of a march to Sopore called by the separatist Hurriyat Conference to protest the deaths. The government had urged restraint after Bilal Ahmad Wani (22) was shot dead by the CRPF on Sunday. But the forces fired at the protesters again.
A CPRF spokesman said they had no option but to fire. A section of unarmed policemen deployed to control the mob had run into its camp to escape the protesters. “The mob attacked the CRPF post and tried to enter it,” Ajay Chaturvedi said. “The sentry had to fire to prevent the post being overrun.” (See pics)
Forces also fired at protestors marching to Sopore from Srinagar. When the procession reached the Srinagar-Baramulla national highway, the authorities tried to disperse the crowds but clashes ensued. Protestors damaged police vehicles and the security men fired at them. At least four persons with bullet injuries were rushed to hospital.
“Almost 30 smoke shells went off and later there was firing in the air,” an eyewitness said. (Read: 'Cops fired in the air')
“We did not use force in the city (Srinagar), only restricted their movement to Sopore. No major injuries were reported,” IG (Kashmir) Farooq Ahmad told HT .
At a press conference, law minister Ali Mohammad Sagar expressed helplessness at not being able to control the CRPF, which is in the state to aid the police in counter-insurgency operations and maintain law and order. He said the force had ignored Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s call for restraint.
(With inputs from New Delhi)