IRP opens fire on demo, 23-year-old killed
2 militants trapped in Kulgam gunbattle
AHMED ALI FAYYAZ
SRINAGAR, Jan 22: Indian Reserve Police (IRP), an armed wing of Jammu & Kashmir Police, today opened fire on a demonstration, killing a 23-year-old youth at Yekwanpora village, close to the archeological remains of Parihaspora, in Pattan area of Baramulla district. Authorities have ordered an inquiry even as tension was prevailing in the Shia-dominated area till late tonight. Two militants have, meanwhile, got trapped in a fierce gunbattle with Police and security forces in Kaimoh area of Kulgam in South Kashmir.
Informed sources in North Kashmir told Early Times that that nearly 1,000 residents of Divar and Yakwanpora villages gathered today at the battalion headquarters of IRP 10 Bn at Yekwanpora. While alleging that IRP personnel at the camp had ‘forcibly and sacrilegiously’ removed Moharram banners from the premises of a shrine, they raised the demand of action against the guilty. Even as Commandant of the battalion, Mushtaq Ahmed Keeno, was not present at the camp, his juniors staked claim on the piece of land and refused to accept that removal of the religious banners was any sacrilegious act on their part. They asserted to the crowds that the land had been duly given on lease to the camp and there was no question of giving the people right of way through the protected premises.
As behaviour of the camp officials provoked the demonstrators further, they raised pro-Islam and anti-Government slogans. With the tempers running high from both sides, demonstrators clashed with IRP personnel with intermittent stone pelting. In retaliation and further provocation, IRP guards opened fire on the angry demonstration. A 23-year-old youth, Manzoor Ahmed Sofi S/o Mohammad Ramzan Sofi, was critically hit and he died before reaching hospital for treatment.
Sensing more trouble, authorities dispatched contingents from the local Police Station as well as paramilitary forces who controlled the situation with strict enforcement of prohibitory orders. As Deputy Commissioner, Lateef-uz-Zamaan Dewa, was being relieved under fresh orders from the Government in Jammu and the new incumbent was yet to take over, Additional DC Mohammad Ashraf Shonthu rushed to the spot with SSP Baramulla, Shakil Baig. After a great deal of persuasion, officials succeeded in assuring the angry crowds that the matter of “excessive force” would be investigation and anybody found responsible for over-reaction would be arrested and prosecuted under law.
Amid intermittent clashes and tension in the locality, authorities got Sofi’s post mortem conducted at Sub District Hospital of Pattan. Later this evening, dead body was handed over to the residents who conducted funeral only after the officials succeeded in getting the intervention of prominent cleric-politician Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari’s younger brother, Maulvi Abid Ansari. Sources said that the officials conveyed to the angry residents that a murder case would be registered immediately after receiving SSP Baramulla’s detailed report on the incident on Saturday. SSP has been directed by Additional DC Baramulla to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances that led to the youth’s killing.
IGP Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed, told Early Times that it was primarily a local dispute on the right of way between the IRP camp and residents of Yakwanpora village. He said it was being looked into as to what prompted the crowds to allegedly resort to stone pelting and why the IRP guards had opened fire. He said that prima facie there was some substance in the peoples’ allegation of unwarranted fire as just one person had been hit and that too fatally. He said that Police had registered a case and begun investigation that would determine what kind of an FIR would be registered. Senior officials said that it was a matter of grave concern as the death of a youth had occurred in firing at a time when Chief Minister was reviewing security and law and order arrangements in the summer capital with top ranking officers.
Meanwhile, late night reports from South Kashmir said that Police and troops of Rashtriya Rifles swooped on a residential house at Rampura hamlet, near Kaimoh village in Kulgam district immediately after receiving a tip off that two armed militants were present at their hideout. IGP Kashmir said that exchange of gunfire began late this evening even as troops and Police were busy in evacuating the civilians from the densely populated hamlet. “Our first priority is to ensure evacuation of all civilians before launching a decisive offensive on the militants”, he said.