A teenager was killed in Kashmir on Saturday when security forces fired to disperse people protesting the arrest of separatist leader Masarat Alam even as violence engulfed the valley on the second day of street demonstrations.
Police later admitted that the killing of the class 9 student, identified as Suhail Ahmad Bhat, at Narbal in north Kashmir was due to violation of the standard operating procedure (SOP) by security forces.
The protestors were enforcing a shutdown called by hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani after Masarat Alam’s arrest for allegedly hoisting a Pakistani flag at a Srinagar rally on Wednesday.
“We regret the unfortunate incident and extend our sympathies to the bereaved family. Preliminary enquiry conducted into the matter indicates that the forces deployed have acted in violation of the laid down SOP,” said a statement issued by the police.
Under the SOP, police are required to use only non-lethal weapons for crowd control and restrain from using live ammunition on protestors, official sources said.
The protesters, hurling rocks and shouting slogans, had gathered in Narbal as shops, businesses and public transportation across the region shut down, police said, adding they were forced to open fire to control the situation.
Narbal village, on the Srinagar-Gulmarg road, is 18 km from Srinagar.
News of the teenager’s death drew hundreds of more angry villagers to join the protests as troops tried to disperse them with tear gas.
Alam’s arrest -- just weeks after his release from five years in prison on the same charge – had sparked violent clashes on Friday between protesters and security forces that left 20 police personnel and five protesters injured.
On Saturday, Geelani and moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who led the protests in Srinagar on Friday against the killing of a youngster in south Kashmir’s Tral, were placed under house arrest.
Police officials said the house arrest of the separatist leaders was a preventive measure for maintaining law and order.
As the Centre came under attack for the situation in the state ruled by a PDP-BJP coalition, Union home minister Rajnath Singh has asserted that India's unity and integrity were “inviolable” and “nobody will be allowed to break it”.
“Anybody found engaging in anti-national activities will not be spared or forgiven,” he told a press conference in Kanpur on Friday.
(With agency inputs)