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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Corps Commander, DGP face first killing in Bandipore

Army says Hilal was a militant and died in encounter; Residents call him innocent civilian; 24 wounded in clashes; DC orders inquiry

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 25: New General Officer Commanding Srinagar-based 15th Corps, Lt Gen Om Prakash, and the new Director General of Police, Ashok Prasad, are facing the first controversial killing by Army in Bandipore area of north Kashmir as hundreds of people today staged demonstrations and clashed with Police over the midnight killing of a 25-year-old youth. Even as 24 persons, including 12 from Police and CRPF, sustained injuries in the clashes, Deputy Commissioner of Bandipore motivated angry residents over the funeral of the youth after he ordered a magisterial inquiry and assured the demonstrators that justice would be done in accordance to law.

Authoritative sources in north Kashmir told Early Times that bullet-riddled body of a 25-year-old youth, namely Hilal Ahmad Dar S/o Ghulam Mohiuddin Dar R/o Aloosa, Bandipore, was recovered by a unit of Rashtriya Rifles 27th Bn early in the morning today from an open space in close vicinity of his residential village. Army maintained that the youth was an armed militant who died in an encounter as the troops were already in ambush in that area.

In a press release, Defence Spokesman at headquarters 15th Corps said: “On 24 July, based on information regarding movement of two to three terrorists in the general area Alusa - Halmatpura, a surveillance cum ambush was launched in area Ashtiung Nar on night of 24/25 July 12. At about 2345 hours, the ambush party noticed suspicious movement.  On being challenged, the ambush party of 27 Rashtriya Rifles was fired upon. A brief fire fight ensued.  Later during the search of the site, of one body and AK-47 along with ammunition were recovered. The body was later identified as Hilal Ahmed Dar s/o Ghulam Moiuddin Dar r/o Village Alusa, Bandipur. The body and the recovered arms and ammunition have been handed over to the Police”.

According to the informed official sources in north Kashmir, hundreds of people from Aloosa and adjoining villages gathered around the Company Headquarters of RR 27 Bn. They claimed that Hilal Ahmad Dar was “an innocent civilian” who had been working as a security guard at a private cement factory in Khrew area of Pampore and had never become a militant or gone underground. They alleged that the youth, on way to attend a religious function at a mosque in a nearby village, was gunned down by Army without any reason. They demanded registration of a criminal matter against the troops involved in the “fake encounter”, their immediate arrest and compensation to the bereaved family.

After a while, troops handed over the dead body to the residents of Aloosa and other villages. Rather than performing the funeral silently, hundreds of demonstrators marched towards the district headquarters, carrying the dead body on their shoulders. The demonstration was quickly intercepted by Police and CRPF near Aloosa. Even as a number of persons from both sides sustained injuries in the clashes, the demonstrators succeeded in wending their way to Bandipore. While shouting anti-India, anti-forces and pro-Azadi slogans, the demonstrators were again intercepted by Police and CRPF at Bongam, about a mile short of Bandipore town. In the ensuing clashes, more civilians and Policemen got injured.

On this occasion, Police snatched away the dead body from custody of the demonstrators and carried it back to the company headquarters of RR 27 Bn. A team of doctors from District Hospital Bandipore, which was later joined by another team of forensic experts from Government Medical College Srinagar, conducted post mortem of the slain youth and collected samples from the body for detailed forensic analysis. DIG North Kashmir, DC and SP of Bandipore, as also other senior officials, were present all through the process.

It was late in the afternoon that DC Bandipore, Manzoor Ahmad Lone, pacified the residents to some extent with his assurance that justice would be done in the matter. He announced a magisterial inquiry by additional DC of Bandipore, Tariq Ahmad Zargar. At around Iftaar, family members and residents performed the funeral at Aloosa. Reports said that nearly 3,000 people participated in the funeral procession and the prayers.

Official sources said that 24 persons, including twelve Police and CRPF personnel, sustained injuries in today’s ding dong clashes at Aloosa, Paribal and Bongam. They said that traffic on Bandipore-Sopore Road remained disrupted for the whole day due to demonstrations and violent clashes between the demonstrators and Police. While as the demonstrators shouted slogans and pelted stones, Police and CRPF retaliated with baton charge and tearsmoke. Unconfirmed reports said that Police used firing in air at three occasions. However, nobody reported at the hospital with a gunshot injury.

Reports from Bandipore said that local traders’ federation called for a total shutdown in Bandipore area on Thursday to register strong protest against “killing of an innocent youth by Army and labeling him as a militant”. Authorities have immediately cancelled the inauguration of a sports stadium at Bandipore that was originally scheduled on July 26th.

This is the first controversial killing by Army after Lt Gen Om Prakash assumed charge as GOC of 15th Corps last month and just two days after the joining of Ashok Prasad as the new DGP in Srinagar.

Army maintained that Hilal Ahmad Dar was an armed militant who got killed in an encounter. Police did not issue any statement on the incident. However, senior officials in J&K Police told Early Times that Hilal had never surfaced as a wanted underground militant or an overground activist of any guerrilla group. They said that an inquiry was underway with regard to antecedents of the slain youth and the reality would emerge in the next 24 hours.

On the other hand, Hilal’s family members, neighbours and residents of Aloosa insisted that he had never indulged in any subversive activity. They said that for the last few years, he had been sporting long beard and long hair and occasionally wearing a green colour scarf as he was impressed by a Tableegi Jamaat. They insisted that after performing late evening prayers (Taraveeh) at the local mosque, Hilal was on way to another mosque in a nearby village to attend a function organized by a group of religious activists. However, he was gunned down by Army en route at Helmatpora Gujjar Basti, they alleged.

Residents said that a few days back, troops had similarly fired upon a youth at Malangam village in Bandipore. “He was lucky enough to survive. He sustained gunshot wounds and is currently under treatment at Army’s hospital in Srinagar”, said Ghulam Rasool Bhat of Aloosa. Army has claimed that the Malangam youth got injured in a minor blast in his village but troops airlifted him to 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar where he is recuperating and his family members are attending on him.

Most of the separatist outfits, as also the mainstream opposition party, PDP, MLA Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rasheed and Peoples Conference have condemned the killing of Hilal Dar and demanded justice including action against Dar’s killers.


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