2 youths killed in firing, army expresses ‘regret’
Sajad Ahmad Lone
Srinagar, April 12: Two youngsters were killed and six other people were injured as forces allegedly opened fire on angry protesters in Handwara Town of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district Tuesday afternoon who were protesting against the alleged molestation bid by a trooper.
Official sources told Srinagar-based news agency GNS that today in the afternoon, massive protests erupted in the area after an army trooper allegedly attempted to molest a girl student of Handwara secondary school.
As soon as the news spread in the Town, scores of youths including students staged massive protest and resorted to heavy stone pelting on army in the Town.
As the clashes turned violent in the area, the army opened fire to disperse the protesting youth, the sources, adding that however, in the incident at least six persons sustained injuries. All the injured were immediately shifted to District Hospital Handwara where a youth Nayeem Ahmad Bhat son of Ghulam Qadir Bhat of Heerpora, Handwara succumbed to injuries.
Another critically injured youth Mohammad Iqbal, son of Farooq Mir, resident of Shalpora village of Drugmulla, Kupwara was shifted to a Srinagar hospital but he too succumbed to injuries. Following the killings, hundreds of youths took to streets in Handwara and staged violent protests. “The youths again resorted to stone pelting on army bunker at Handwara Town,” said the eyewitnesses, adding: “the bunker was set on fire and also vandalized.”
As the clashes turned intense, a heavy contingent of police and CRPF arrived in the Handwara Town to control the situation. Witnesses said that the youths later clashed with the police who retaliated by firing dozens of teargas shells. The clashes later spread to adjoining Kupwara and Langate areas where hundreds of people took to streets and held violent protests.
The sources said that in the police action, nearly 9 persons including a woman, Jana Begum, who was hit by a stray bullet sustained injuries. The woman along with some other critically injured persons was shifted to Srinagar for treatment.
Regretting the incident, an army spokesman said here that the matter would be probed. “Army deeply regrets the unfortunate loss of life. Matter will be investigated and anybody found guilty will be dealt as per the law,” he added.
Meanwhile, a police spokesman said in statement that army fired in retaliation which led to the killings of two youths. “Today afternoon an alleged incident of misbehaviour with / molestation of a girl by an army man took place in Handwara town. Within minutes public in large numbers gathered there and attacked the army bunker in Handwara chowk. They assaulted the personnel deployed there, ransacked the bunker and attempted to set fire to the bunker etc,” he said.
“In retaliation the security forces deployed used force to disperse the violent rampaging mob. In the process two individuals namely Mohammad Iqbal and Nayeem Qadir sustained fire-arm injuries. They were evacuated to hospital where they, unfortunately, succumbed to their injuries. J&K Police deeply regrets the loss of life,” the spokesman said.
He said a criminal case has been registered in Police Station Handwara and investigation launched to ascertain the facts. Separately, the J&K Government has ordered a magisterial enquiry into the incident.
Meanwhile, thousands of people attended the funeral of the duo held this evening amid massive anti-India and pro-freedom protests. The slain duo was laid to rest amid sobs and tears by people.
The killings in Handwara sparked off protests and clashes in Old City areas here. The clashes erupted between police and protesters at Nowhatta during which police resorted to heavy teargas shelling. The protests also erupted at Kashmir University this evening and continued for several hours.