The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Troops turn wedding into boys’ funeral

Srinagar, July 24: The bride’s family had sent sweets to the nearby army camp on the day of the marriage. The troops sent back a gory present: the bodies of three wedding guests, aged 11, 12 and 16.

The Rashtriya Rifles ambushed a group of youths ' including the groom’s brother ' as they travelled to the marriage reception last night in the north Kashmir village of Bangargund, 120 km from here in Kupwara district.

The police said the boys had walked into an ambush laid for militants; and in the darkness, the troops had failed to realise that they were unarmed civilians.

Bangargund was today numbed by the deaths of Wasim Sultan Wani, 12, Bilal Khaliq Shah, 11, and Shabir Ahmad Shah, 16. Manzoor Ahmad Shah, the younger brother of bridegroom Mohammad Jamal Shah, is in hospital with serious bullet wounds.

The villagers said the army camp had been alerted in advance and permission sought for night movement in the village during the wedding.

“We had sent sweets to the camp so that the troops could share in our joy,” Abdul Rashid, a villager, told The Telegraph. “But what followed was unprecedented and tragic.”

Immediately after the tragedy, the groom’s parents had decided to postpone the marriage. But village elders favoured a sober and subdued barat with just a few close relatives accompanying the groom, who is from the same village.

Within minutes, the groom returned with the bride, not to the traditional festivities but to a funeral reception. The women wailed over the dead and the men sat silent and grim as the bride stepped into her new home.

The traditional feast, wazwan, prepared by the bride’s family through the whole of yesterday went untouched.

The air was thick with tension in Bangargund and neighbouring villages today with protesters throwing stones at the local police station and shouting anti-government slogans. The police and paramilitary responded with teargas and a baton-charge.

Senior police officers later arrived in the village to calm down the grief-stricken families and promise punishment for the guilty securitymen.

Two days ago, the state government had ordered an inquiry into the killing of a youth in south Kashmir’s Kangan village by the security forces while he was irrigating his paddy fields.

Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has conveyed “serious concern to the corps commander” over the Bangargund shooting. He has ordered an inquiry and asked the security agencies to avoid repeats.

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