Killed in Valley: Youth out to buy bread and ice cream
A 19-year-old undergraduate student was killed and at least one civilian injured in a south Kashmir village on Monday evening in what their families alleged was unprovoked firing by the army.
The army denied the allegation and said the victims had been hit by militant bullets. The family of the deceased Shahid Gani Dar alleged that they were not even allowed to come out of their home after they learnt about his injury and the neighbourhood was forced to keep their lights turned off through the night.
The killing came on a day Lt Gen. A.D.S. Aujla took charge as the chief of the 15 Corps, the army division located in Srinagar and responsible for military operations in Kashmir. The officer conveyed his greetings to Kashmiris, committing himself to pursue peace.
The army said a soldier and a civilian were injured in an alleged gunfight with militants but locals said three civilians had been wounded.
Shopian resident Abdul Gani Dar said the army killed his eldest son Shahid, who had been pursuing a bachelor’s programme at Kulgam Degree College, when he was walking to a shop to buy bread and ice cream on Monday evening. Abdul said three other local youths were also injured, one of whom is battling for his life at Srinagar’s 92 Base Hospital.
The family said Shahid was killed in indiscriminate firing by the army. The army, however, said the soldiers showed “complete disregard” for their own safety and evacuated the majority of the civilians caught in militant fire. Locals said there were no militants in the village.
A defence spokesman in Srinagar said a joint operation by the army and the police had been launched in Pandoshan village around a house at 8.30pm during which militants fired “indiscriminately” at the forces to break the cordon.
“Sensing grave threat to the lives of the civilians, our teams commenced civilian extrication from the operation site despite being heavily fired upon by the terrorists. The terrorists, sensing they had been cornered, started firing on the civilians in order to create chaos that would help them escape,” the spokesman said.
“With complete disregard to their own safety, the security forces were successful in evacuating the majority of the civilians to a safe location. However, due to incessant and targeted fire from the terrorists, one soldier, Lance Naik Sanjib Das, and two civilians namely Shahid Gani Dar and Suhaib Ahmad suffered gunshot wounds,” the spokesperson said.
The army said the injured were airlifted to the 92 Base Hospital where Shahid succumbed to his injuries “despite timely medical intervention and the best efforts of doctors”. The spokesman said Naik Das was stable and out of danger while Ahmad was critical but stable. The militants managed to flee taking advantage of the darkness, the spokesperson said.
Gulzar Ahmad, Shahid’s uncle and a local panchayat member, accused the army of lying.
“This is a lie (that militants opened fire). There were no militants there. I am a panch and I know things. The boys saw them (security personnel) and were apparently asked to stop. They got scared and tried to run. A month ago, there was an incident where the army had roughed up some locals, the reason they (Shahid and the others) got scared and tried to flee,” Gulzar told The Telegraph over phone.
“Our neighbours living (near the firing spot) watched (everything). They (army) opened fire at him (the youths), injuring him. He tried to get up but he was shot again. He had offered evening prayers with me at a local mosque before he left for the shop to buy ice cream and bread when this incident happened,” Gulzar added.
Abdul, Shahid’s father, said the youth was shot one or two minutes after he had left home.
“We got a call from neighbours in the evening that my son was injured and was lying on the roadside. They had raised an alarm but faced abuse (from the army), who warned them against moving out,” he told this newspaper.
“They (army) did not even allow us to move out of our home (all night). Anybody who tried to move out faced abuse. They (army) stayed in the village till late into the night. We were not even allowed to keep our lights on,” Abdul said. He said the soldiers shifted the injured to an army camp before airlifting them to the Srinagar hospital. He said they were allowed to visit the army hospital in Srinagar only in the morning but by then Shahid had died.
Inspector-general of police Vijay Kumar said it had been observed of late that Pakistani militants were resorting to firing on civilians and security forces to escape cordons.
“In some such encounters, the terrorists managed to escape but we lost precious lives of civilians and security forces. We are trying to bring some change in our tactical SOPs,” he said.
A civilian, Shakeel Ahmad, had died during a gunfight in February in south Kashmir.