Three civilians killed in J-K as forces fire at protesters during gunfight with militants
Three civilians were killed in central Kashmir’s Budgam and several others injured when security forces fired on stone pelting protesters during encounter with militantsUpdated: Mar 29, 2017 07:22 IST
Three civilians were killed when security forces opened fire at a crowd of protestors allegedly throwing stones at troops engaged in a counter-insurgency raid in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Tuesday.
The operation ended with the killing of an armed militant, whom the people of Chadoora were allegedly trying to help escape after soldiers cornered him.
The firing wounded more than a dozen people, and those with grave wounds were dashed to Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital, where 22-year-old civilian Zahid Rashid Bhat was declared dead on arrival.
Medical superintendent Nazir Ahmad Choudhary said a bullet has pierced through Bhat’s neck.
Another man, Saqib Ahmad, died after surgery while Ishaq Ahmad from Srinagar’s Rangreth area breathed his last by evening.
Choudhary said another two men underwent surgery and are stable.
CRPF deputy inspector general Sanjay Kumar called the operation complex, and said 43 troopers from his paramilitary force and 20 Jammu and Kashmir police personnel were wounded in the clashes.
The Budgam deaths attracted condemnation from opposition parties — the National Conference, Congress, and CPM — and they advised restraint in dealing with demonstrators.
National Conference president Farooq Abdullah said he was grieved by the tragic incident and blamed the Centre and state government for the “alarming situation” in Kashmir.
“There is no alternative to talks. You have to talk to the people of Kashmir … with an honest intent to resolve the political issue,” he said.
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, whose Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) shares power in the state with the BJP, called the killings unfortunate and said Kashmiris were suffering collateral damage because of the violence in the past three decades.
“It is highly painful to see the young boys losing their lives,” she said, and appealed to Kashmiri militants to give up arms “as nothing can be achieved through violence”.
Militancy-hit Kashmir has been intensely restive since the killing of a popular militant leader, Burhan Wani, last summer that triggered a long unrest in which more than 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded in clashes with security forces.
Protests waned during the snow-clad winter, but simmering separatist sentiments often prompt people to create hurdles during counter-militancy operations. Army chief General Bipin Rawat has warned people trying to disrupt security strikes, saying they would face harsh action reserved for anti-nationals.
Several civilians have been killed in retaliatory firing when they try to get close to the site of a gunfight between soldiers and militants, shouting slogans and throwing stones at the troops.
According to eyewitnesses at Chadoora, protesters were hit when they tried to march towards the site where the militant was cornered.
A police spokesperson said a large group of protesters started throwing stones at the troops, forcing them to retaliate.
“I appeal to the youth not to pay heed to messages on social media urging them to come near encounter sites,” director general of police SP Vaid said.
There were reports WhatsApp messages from across the India-Pakistan border were circulating immediately after troops engaged militants at Padgampora recently. The messages goaded the Kashmiri youth to rush towards the site of the gunfight and save the militants.
The Budgam incident follows the killing of 15-year-old Amir Nazir on March 10 in Pulwama. Police said Amir was in a stone-throwing mob and cut down by a bullet in the neck.
Stray bullets killed a girl during a counter-insurgency raid near her home in north Kashmir on March 15.
(with agency inputs)