Villagers allege army fired first on Shopian protesters, political tussle brews
Javid Ahmed Lone, the father of Class 12 student Suhail who was killed when army reportedly opened fire on protesters in Ganawpora village of Shopian district on Saturday, says he saw his son die outside their home when a bullet fired by a soldier hit him.
“When the army started firing on the gathered protesters, every one of us, including the children, rushed back into our homes. My son was still not in and I ran out to fetch him. I saw him die in front of my own eyes,” Lone said.
The army had said on Saturday that the jawans fired in “self-defence”.
“Considering the extreme gravity of the situation, the army was constrained to open fire in self-defence to prevent lynching of the JCO and burning of government vehicle by the mob,” said a statement quoting a Srinagar-based army spokesperson.
On Saturday, the J-K police registered a case against the 10th Garhwal unit for alleged murder, attempt to murder and endangering life.
The BJP demanded in the J-K assembly on Monday that the FIR be revoked, but chief minister Mehbooba Mufti backed the police action. “If any army officer has made a mistake, it becomes the duty of the government to take the FIR to its logical conclusion,” she said
In Ganawpora village, Lone lives next door to Firdous Ahmed, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant killed in an encounter on January 24. Outside Ahmed’s house, a black Islamic banner with a Qalima on it was put up. Villagers said the army jawans were seeking its removal. “We objected and didn’t let them remove the banner. What’s wrong in this?” asked a local, who asked not to be named.
The banner resembles the flags commonly used by the terrorist outfit Islamic State, a police official said. The villagers, who claimed to be witnesses, said the soldiers came back to get the banner removed, which led to -pelting and sloganeering.
“In the morning, only two vehicles had come, but second time they came with more. They shot at people and threw stones ,” a villager alleged.
Two civilians, Suhail and Javid Bhat, died in the firing by army while another youth is in a critical condition.
“Stone-pelting happened but what is a matter of investigation is that whether the intensity was sufficient to warrant an action of such nature,” a senior police officer said.
While the army said the number of protesters had swelled to 250, villagers say there were not more than 20 or 30 protesters.
“Hundred percent galat,” senior residents gathered at Bhat’s house shouted in unison when asked about the army claim.
Denying that Javid was a stone-pelter, father Abdul Rashid Bhat said, “My son was hit in the head. Do you shoot at the head when you shoot for self-defence?”
The Shopian incident is being seen as a blow to a move to build bridges between the government and the youth.