Locals, army spar over firing during iftaar party in Shopian
A war of words has erupted between the army and locals in Shopian following the firing by soldiers on Monday during an iftaar function that left four people injured.
On Tuesday, the army claimed that they had planned the iftaar as part of its outreach programme with the consent of locals who said that they repeatedly dissuaded the army from holding the function fearing protests by youth.
Two sisters were among the four who were injured when the Army fired following stone pelting by locals.
A resident of DK Pura said that two days ago, officials from the local army camp approached the Mosque Auqaf Committee saying they want to hold an iftaar function, but the locals advised them against it.
“The Auqaf committee then went to the army camp and advised against holding the iftaar. They told them that it was not advisable as the youth may react angrily. But the army officials did not listen. They said they will not retaliate even if the youth pelted stones on them,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a local who owns a medical shop in the area.
An army spokesman, however, said the iftaar was a planned affair.
“Following the tradition and as part of a goodwill gesture towards the awaam during the holy month of Ramzan, the local army camp at Imam Sahib planned an Iftaar at DK Pura village on May 21. Necessary coordination was done with the village maulvi, masjid committee members, sarpanch and other eminent persons of the village. Some of them had also visited the army camp later in the afternoon to finalise arrangements,” said the spokesman.
Ahmad said that on Monday evening, many people of the village did not visit the mosque fearing escalation of the situation when the army men came at around 7.10 pm and started setting stalls.
“They put their weapons down. People again requested them not to go ahead with the programme but they insisted. The youth had already gathered and started shouting pro-freedom slogans. The seniors tried to calm down the youth and again told the army men that they will accompany them to their vehicle but they did not listen. The protesters then started pelting stones and chased the army men. Some of the army men retaliated with firing,” said Ahmad.
The army spokesman, however, said that when the iftaar was under progress at around 7:30 pm, some miscreants from the village barged into the masjid and started shouting “anti-national and pro-Pakistan slogans including on the loudspeaker”.
“Very soon, a large crowd instigated by the miscreants primarily consisting of youth and a few women gathered outside the masjid and surrounded the troops present there for organising the iftaar. The crowd resorted to heavy stone pelting posing serious threat to the safety of the troops. The troops verbally cautioned the crowd, but when stone pelting further intensified, they took necessary preventive measures and moved out of the area,” the spokesman said.
Saleem Tak, medical superintendent of SMHS hospital in Srinagar, said that three women from Shopian had come to the hospital with injuries. “Two were injured in their legs while one had an injury in her arm,” he said.
Strongly condemning the incident, hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman, Syed Ali Geelani said, “This is what the Indian army means by the much hyped ceasefire.”
“When people of that area didn’t want such an event, why these men in uniform forced it on gunpoint, and when people opposed, they fired to silence them by bullets,” Geelani said in a statement.