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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Handwara residents to DC: “Army observed utmost restraint”

Toll reaches four; Police posts attacked as trouble spills to Kupwara; Separatists call another shutdown; Govt puts Kupwara, Srinagar downtown under curfew
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, April 13: Even as Deputy Commissioner of Kupwara has ordered a time-bound magisterial enquiry and an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) has been placed under suspension for “negligence of duty”, two more civilians died of the bullets fired by Police and security forces in Handwara area of northern Kashmir on Wednesday.

Informed sources said that the critically injured middle-aged woman, Raja (54) of Langet, breathed her lost at SKIMS in the wee hours. Her death remained a mystery as none among the officials did explain how she had been hit in her head while she was working at her vegetable farms at Langet, nearly 4 Km from Handwara, around the time when two 21-22 year old youths, Nayeem Qadir Bhat of Handwara and Mohammad Iqbal of Shalpora Drugmulla, were killed and more than two dozen others left injured in the firing by Police and security forces in Handwara on Tuesday.

After the funeral rites of the three civilians concluded separately in Drugmulla, Handwara and Langet towns, angry groups of the demonstrators attacked Police posts in parts of Kupwara district. Officials said that a Police post was set on fire and destroyed in Langet while as three more Police posts were attacked and damaged in Magam, Drugmulla and Hatmulla. Sources said that Police managed to save the arms and ammunition besides all records at the post set ablaze in Langet.

At Shat Muqam (Drugmulla), the demonstrators returning from Mohammad Iqbal’s funeral attacked Police and security forces. A 23-year-old civilian, Jehangir Ahmad Wani, was reportedly hit by a tearsmoke shell. He succumbed to injuries at a hospital. With his death, total of four civilians have got killed in the politically volatile area in the last 30 hours. Around a hundred civilians and at least 10 Police personnel have sustained injuries in the clashes.

At Drugmulla, a crowd launched an intense attack on the Police Station operating at the retired DIG Ashiq Bukhari’s house. Reports said that Police dispersed the mob with lathi charge and tearsmoke.

Residents of Handwara maintained that the town wore the looks of a battlefield as Police and CRPF fired hundreds of volleys of gunfire while the funeral of Nayeem Qadir was in progress. They said that some youths fought pitched battles with Police and security forces for several hours even as curfew-like restrictions remained in force in Handwara. Even the mediapersons were not permitted to move beyond a point.

Former National Conference Minister Chowdhary Mohammad Ramzan and independent MLA of Langet Engineer Rashid arranged for a meeting of DC Kupwara Kumar Rajeev Ranjan, Additional DC Muzaffar Ahmad and Tehsildar of Handwara with the family members of Nayeem Qadir at Bhat Mohalla in the turbulent town.

Sources present in the meeting told STATE TIMES that members of the bereaved family, besides all other residents, told DC Kupwara that Army had observed “utmost restraint” throughout the clashes on Tuesday. According to them, they stated to DC that inspite of grave provocation by the demonstrators repeatedly, Army did not open fire on the crowds.

“Most of them had already left the bunker. Some soldiers got holed up and they did not open fire when a mob set the building on fire and the soldiers were about to burn alive. For 8 long years, troops remained holed up. They were later rescued by Police”, Nayeem’s maternal uncle told the DC. According to him, Nayeem and Iqbal were “killed in cold blood” by ASI Rafeeq and an SP though they begged for life and beseeched that they were not part of the mob.

Reached on telephone in hometown Handwara, NC leader and former Minister Choudhary Ramzan said: “Yes it’s a fact. Everybody in the meeting gave a clean chit to Army and asserted that they were not involved in the firing. However, they demanded investigation into the allegation of molestation of a girl student levelled against a soldier by two male students. They also demanded removal of Army bunker as it had no utility for the forces after their convoys began passing through the bypass”, Mr Ramzan said.

As agreed upon by the residents and the officers in the meeting, DC Kupwara issued a statement making it clear that ADC Kupwara would hold a time-bound enquiry and that he would write to Army for removal of the controversial bunker in two months. He announced suspension of ASI Rafeeq and assured the residents that the officials found guilty in the enquiry will be booked in the FIR already registered. He also assured them that Police would not harass the youths against whom an open FIR of arson and assault on public servants and properties had been filed.

DC also assured the family that he would try to grant them ex gratia compensation (of Rs 13 lakh) on the pattern of the Kerala temple fire victims though it would not be less than Rs 5 lakh each family with the addition of contributions from CM’s and PM’s relief funds.

Late in the afternoon, Peoples Conference Chairman and Cabinet Minister Sajjad Lone arrived in his hometown along with his MLA colleague Bashir Ahmad Mir and PDP’s Cabinet Minister of Law Abdul Haq Khan. They also interacted with a group of the residents.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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