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Friday, July 27, 2012

Antony orders inquiry into Bandipore killing

MoS Home, DGP call on bereaved family amid shutdown; Geelani calls for bandh on July 28

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 26: Ahead of his visit to Kashmir, union Defence Minister A K Antony has ordered inquiry into the death of a 25-year-old youth, Hilal Ahmad Dar of Aloosa Bandipore, even as the district headquarters remained shut on a call of local traders’ federation and the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani called for Valley-wide shutdown on July 28th. Amid the shutdown and clashes today, Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, led a high level official delegation to call on the bereaved family in Bandipore.

During the night intervening, Hilal Ahmad Dar had died in Army’s firing in close vicinity of his village. While as Army maintained that Dar was an armed militant who died in an encounter with a unit of Rashtriya Rifles 27 Bn, family members and residents of several Bandipore villages claimed that he was an innocent civilian who had no militant connections. J&K Police has remained completely non-committal on the controversial shootout, though officials have told various newspapers that Dar had not been a listed or wanted militant in the Police records.

Srinagar-based 15 Corps Commander Lt Gen Om Prakash had asserted that there was no need to hold an inquiry into an encounter in which, according to him, a militant had got killed and arms and ammunition had been recovered from his possession. However, union Defence Minister A K Antony today ordered an inquiry into the circumstances that led to Hilal’s killing and directed the Army authorities to initiate action against the guilty if any found in the whole episode.

In a press released, Srinagar-based Defence spokesman said: “The Hon’ble Defence Minister Shri A K Antony has ordered an inquiry into the incident, which occurred in Bandipora, in Kashmir Valley on the night 24/25 July 2012, resulting in the death of a local villager Hilal Ahmed Dar s/o Ghulam Moiuddin Dar r/o Village Alusa, Bandipora. The Defence Minister also instructed the army to take strict action against anyone found guilty”. Antony’s orders have come two days ahead of his scheduled visit to the Valley alongwith Chief of Army Staff Gen Bikram Singh.

In another press release today, Defence spokesman said that Army was already conducting an inquiry. “Army authorities assured that Army is carrying out detailed investigation into the incident. The investigations will be absolutely fair and transparent and Army also whole heartedly cooperating with the Police investigations.  Action will be taken as per the law of land”, the spokesman said.

With the Army’s volte face, Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, today led a high level official delegation to Bandipore. Officials claimed that the delegations interacted with members of the bereaved family and assured them justice, that, according to sources, would include ex gratia relief and a government job to the family. That is being interpreted as the state government’s admission that Hilal Dar was a civilian killed in an unwarranted firing and not an armed militant killed while attacking troops.

Principal Secretary Home, B R Sharma, DGP Ashok Prasad, IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai, and Deputy Commissioner of Bandipore, Manzoor Ahmad Lone, were in the official delegation that met with the bereaved family in Bandipore. However, independent confirmation of the meeting was still awaited.

Meanwhile, on the call of local traders’ federation, Bandipore and its adjoining villages remained shut today to register protest against Dar’s killing by Army. Reports said that traffic was off the road and most of the shops were closed, particularly in the villages situated on Bandipore-Sopore Road. The slain youth’s village, Aloosa, falls on that every road. Reports said that scores of people brought out different protest processions towards Bandipore and Aloosa but were prevented by Police and CRPF to proceed. In Bandipore town and adjoining villages, youngsters indulged in stone pelting on Police and CRPF. Several people on both sides were reportedly injured.

Police used baton charge and tearsmoke to scare away the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, separatist hardliner and head of a faction of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, today called for total shutdown in Kashmir valley on July 28th against the killing of a youth in Bandipore, burning down of some mosques and monasteries besides maltreatment of women by Police in several demonstrations.


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