A 19-year-old student was killed in firing by security forces trying to quell protests in north Kashmir’s Kupwara on Friday as the fifth civilian death this week sparked fresh anger in the Valley.
The incident is being seen as an embarrassment for Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who directed security agencies a day ago to not harm civilians during protests.
A police official said villagers tried to storm a Rashtriya Rifles camp in Natnusa village on the national highway after Friday prayers. They were reportedly angry over the death of four people in police firing in the district earlier this week.
“The people pelted stones on the camp prompting the army men to open fire. One protester injured in the firing died at a hospital while three others were wounded,” said the official.
The firing killed Arif Hussain Dar, a class-11 student. The three injured people were rushed to Srinagar hospitals.
According to eye witnesses, none of the injured was critical. People accompanying the injured people said an army bunker in the middle of Handwara town was not attacked and insisted that the army fired at “peaceful demonstrations after prayers”.
“We exercised maximum restraint despite stone pelting by large crowd. Only when the mob stormed the army post was forced to open controlled fire in which some miscreants were injured,” army spokesman NN Joshi said.
Police said 40 of their men were injured in clashes with protestors.
The incident triggered fresh demonstrations in Kashmir with people taking to streets in Srinagar and Kupwara.
Shouting slogans, thousands took Arif’s body and marched down to his village in Kupwara, bringing back memories of the 2010 street protests across Kashmir against the government where over 100 people lost their lives.
“I am in the thick of stone pelting and won’t be able to talk,” said Kupwara superintendent of police Aijaz Ahmad.
Violence erupted on Tuesday in Handwara – 85 kilometres from Srinagar -- when police fired on a mob that had gathered following allegations that an army personnel molested a local girl.
The army has since then released a video of the girl where she allegedly denies the molestation charge.
Pressure mounted on the state government as social media erupted in condemnation of the spate of killings and questioned the way security agencies were dealing with crowds.
Separatists, who asked people to protest after Friday prayers, urged local residents to observe a shutdown on Saturday. Most of the Valley observed a spontaneous shutdown on Friday to protest against the killing.
Kashmir University all its examinations scheduled on Saturday.
Authorities clamped a curfew the region and suspended mobile internet services but struggled to contain protests over the death of Mohammad Iqbal, Nayeem Qadir, Raja Begum, and Jehangir Ahmad Wani.
Restrictions were in force on Friday in many parts of Srinagar and curfew was imposed in Handwara and Kupwara towns. Friday prayers were not held in Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid.
Sporadic protests broke in many parts of Kashmir. A group of young people attacked a paramilitary camp with stones in Tral town of south Kashmir.
In the central district of Ganderbal, civilians threw stones at security forces after Friday prayers.
Police fired tear gas shells to disperse the protesters and detained several people for questioning.