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J-K CM Mehbooba’s advice on 4 Shopian shootout deaths: ‘Civilians’, not ‘militant accomplices’

While security forces say that all six killed in the Shopian encounter were militants or their “over-ground workers”, separatist leaders and locals say that four of them were civilians.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2018 08:13 IST
Harinder Baweja
Harinder Baweja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Shopian encounter,J-K police,Indian Army
Locals stand around the vehicle that was hit during a shootout at Pahoo in Shopian district of south Kashmir on Monday.(PTI Photo)

In a potential face-off between the army and the Jammu and Kashmir government over killings in Shopian, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has advised the top brass of the state police to maintain that four of the six killed were civilians and not over ground workers (OGWs) or accomplices of militants, according to multiple officials.

The army has claimed the killed were OGWs.

A mobile check-post of the security forces came under fire on Sunday night. In a gunfight that ensued, two militants and four OGWs were killed, according to a Srinagar-based spokesperson for the army.

The killings on Sunday night have triggered large-scale protests in South Kashmir’s Shopian. In a bid to soothe tempers, the chief minister took to social media to express her anguish over ‘civilian’ deaths. “Deeply distressed by more deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire in Shopian. My heartfelt condolences to the deceased’s families,’’ she wrote.

Read:Protests rage in Kashmir after Army kills six, including 2 Lashkar militants

SP Vaid, Director General, Jammu and Kashmir police denied the force had any verbal instructions from the chief minister, but said, “An investigation will reveal their affiliations,”, referring to the civilians killed.

Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, the ruling party MLA from Shopian said over phone that the army was passing off civilians as OGWs. “All field reports indicate that the four have no connection with militancy.” He said that he had also spoken with the chief minister who had assured him that “action will follow.”

Mufti couldn’t be reached for comment despite repeated attempts to do so.

The protests in South Kashmir coincided with the Supreme Court restraining the J&K government from initiating any action against Major Aditya Kumar till April 24. The Major was named in an FIR after the army opened fire at stone pelters, in Shopian, in January this year, killing three civilians.

Shopian has been on the boil since. Mufti ordered a magisterial inquiry after the January killings but the SC has stayed proceedings in the case after the Major’s father approached the court asking for the FIR to be quashed. “This is not justice. The court should not have stayed proceedings,” said Bhat.

The latest incident has triggered another crisis. Internet services have been suspended in the valley and schools which were supposed to open Monday after a two-month winter vacation have been told to remain shut.

First Published: Mar 05, 2018 23:34 IST