Police fired overhead shots and lobbed teargas shells to quell massive protests in north Kashmir on Saturday over the killing of three youngsters in an alleged fake encounter by the army near the Line of Control last month.
Thousands of people from Nadihal and adjoining villages in Baramulla district, some 65 km from Srinagar, came out on the streets from early morning with the exhumed bodies of three youngsters who had gone missing last month and allegedly killed and passed off as militants by the army.
People raised pro-freedom and anti-army slogans as they marched towards the national highway. At least ten people, including four policemen, were injured when the police tried to disperse the protesters.
The case dates back to April 30, when the army’s 4 Rajput unit claimed to have foiled an infiltration bid by killing three militants in Machil sector of Kupwara district near the LoC.
But some residents of Nadihal, on seeing the trio’s photographs in a newspaper on Thursday, said the slain men –– Shahzad Ahmed (27), Riyaz Ahmad (22) and Mohammad Shafi (23) –– were their relatives who had gone missing three days before the Machil encounter, and had nothing to do with militancy.
On the insistence of the families, the authorities exhumed the three bodies on Friday from three graves at Kalaroos in Kupwara district, some 90 km north of Srinagar.
The bodies were identified by the youngsters’ parents and were handed over to them for last rites after post-mortem.
But residents refused to bury the bodies and marched on the Baramulla-Handwara highway with the bodies, demanding that the culprits be arrested.
“For how long will innocent Kashmiris be killed in the name of (tackling) militancy? We want that the army as well as others responsible for the abduction and killings be brought to book,” said Fayaz Ahmad, a relative of Riyaz Ahmad.
Condemning the killing of the three youngsters, Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said, “Such fake encounters are staged to hoodwink international institutions.”
The state government has ordered a magisterial probe into the alleged fake encounter. The army also has initiated an internal inquiry.
(with inputs from Peerzada Ashiq)