| Ghulam Nabi mourns the death of his father Abdul Quyoom Shah and brother Maqsood Ahmad. (Reuters)
Srinagar, June 16: The imam of a local mosque and his son were shot dead by the army in Baramulla last night after being mistaken for militants. The government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident, which led to big protests in the area.
An ex gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh for the imam’s next of kin has been announced along with the promise of a job for a family member.
A senior police officer said Imam Abdul Quyoom Shah and his 13-year-old-son, Maqsood Ahmad, were returning to their house in Kachoo Kreeri village in Baramulla district after offering prayers at the local mosque when troops sprayed them with bullets, killing both on the spot.
“The army had laid an ambush in the village and as soon as the imam approached, the soldiers challenged them. They opened fire from automatic weapons killing the imam on the spot along with his son,” said the officer, on condition of anonymity.
The villagers found the bodies lying in a pool of blood. News about the killing spread this morning and thousands of villagers took to the streets, marching towards the local police station where the bodies had been taken.
The angry crowd, raising anti-army slogans, blocked the main road at Wagoora after police handed over the bodies for burial. They demanded an inquiry and punishment for the jawans involved.
The villagers said the imam and his son were carrying a kerosene lamp in keeping with the army’s instructions to civilians venturing out at night.
Baramulla district police chief Javed Reyaz had a tough time controlling the crowd. The villagers dispersed after Reyaz assured them that action would be taken against those involved in the shooting.
The Baramulla deputy commissioner, Naven Choudhary, who reached the village along with senior police officers, announced the magisterial inquiry and the ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh, which will be handed over tomorrow.
“The additional district magistrate, Baramulla, will hold an inquiry and submit a report within 10 days,” a government source said.
The deputy commissioner said the additional superintendent of police, Sopore, will conduct a separate investigation.
Tension is still high in the village and additional police have been deployed in the area as a precautionary measure.
But Choudhary said the situation was now under control.
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had recently asked security forces not to harass innocents during anti-militancy operations. The chief minister had said security forces would be held in check. But the latest incident has caused the administration considerable embarrassment, dealing a serious blow to the much-publicised “healing touch” that the chief minister has promised Kashmiris.