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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Two youths killed, woman ‘almost dead’ in Handwara firing

Residents clash with Police, Army on a girl student’s alleged molestation by a soldier; Girl denies molestation bid; Mob burns Tricolour, holds soldiers hostage, sets building on fire; Curfew imposed in downtown Srinagar; Separatists call shutdown

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, April 12: Parallel to Mehbooba Mufti’s first meeting with the union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi after taking over as the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister on last Monday, two youths got killed and over 25 civilians sustained injuries when residents clashed with Police and Army over an attempt of molestation allegedly committed by a soldier in Handwara township of Kupwara district, in northern Kashmir, on Tuesday.

Informed sources said that the trouble sprang out in the afternoon when two students in school uniform caught a teenage girl student outside a public lavatory block in the middle of Handwara town and began dragging her to Police Station with the allegation that a soldier of the nearby camp committed on her molestation. Some of the residents insisted that the two students caught the girl and a soldier and handed them over to Police. However, any soldier having been captured and given into Police custody, was not confirmed by officials.

Tricolour, Army post set on fire

Within minutes a thick mob of the residents, mostly youngsters, gathered and launched an attack on a building, locally known as the Town Commander’s camp, since 1990. Angry youths pulled down the Indian national flag and set it on fire before dismantling a part of the structure and setting the camp on fire. According to Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, around a dozen soldiers got holed up and they were rescued amid heavy clashes between the demonstrators and the Police.

While it was being ascertained whether Police or Army opened the fire, two young students----Nayeem Qadir Bhat of Banday Mohalla Handwara and Mohammad Iqbal of Bomhama Drugmulla, both around 21-year-old---got killed and 25 others injured. Medical Superintendent of Sub District Hospital Handwara, Dr Abdul Rauf, told STATE TIMES that two civilians of 21 years of age, died of the gunshots while two of the 20 admitted at his hospital had gunshot injuries. Others, he said, had got injured with teargas shells etcetera.

“A 55-60 year old woman Raja w/o Abdul Jabar Mir of Langet has apparently a critical gunshot wound in her head. She was declared dead but she miraculously recovered with artificial resuscitation. We have referred her to SKIMS for specialised treatment. She was almost dead when she was rushed to Srinagar”, Dr Rauf said. He said that all 20 others were stable. Officials said that Raja had got hit while she was working at her vegetable farm on the outskirts of Handwara.

Nayeem Qadir was an ace cricketer who, according to the family members, had played under-19 Ranji Trophy matches.

“Our first priority is to evacuate the holed up soldiers without suffering and causing any loss of life. We will investigate and find who exactly has opened fire and in which circumstances”, DGP said when thousands of people were in the thick of a clash with the Police and Army. They had taken into custody both the youths’ bodies and placed them at Main Chowk as a mark of protest and in preparation of funeral prayers.

Reports said that followers of the three mainstream politicians---NC leader and former Minister Choudhary Ramzan, Peoples Conference Chairman and Cabinet Minister Sajjad Gani Lone (both residents of Handwara) and independent MLA Engineer Rashid---dominated the mob that fought pitched battles with the Police and Army and attempted to burn alive over a dozen of the holed up soldiers.

‘Cold-blooded murder’

Almost all the residents of Handwara, who spoke to this newspaper on telephone, alleged invariably that trouble erupted when a soldier attempted molestation on a 15-year-old girl student. However, all of them invariably held the Police responsible for opening the fire and killing the two youths “in cold blood”.

“The clashes were going on when I, along with my nephew Nayeem, were returning to home while carrying vegetables. One ASI Rafeeq dropped his teargas gun and snatched away a constable’s rifle. I shouted on him, pleading that we were not part of the mob and beseeching him not to open fire. But he pulled the trigger and shot straight in Nayeem’s chest. He died on spot. SP himself fired on another student and shot him dead”, Nayeem Qadir’s maternal uncle Ali Mohammad Dar told STATE TIMES.

“It all happened in front of my eyes. They were both killed in cold blooded murder”, Dar alleged, while claiming that “not a single civilian” was killed or injured in Army’s firing. Army did not issue any official statement on the incident and Defence spokesman at headquarters 15 Corps did not respond to calls from this newspaper. Some local news agencies claimed to have called the Defence PRO who purportedly regretted loss of life and said that an enquiry had been launched. No statement from Army came out by email till late on Tuesday night.

Unofficially some Police officers claimed that Army had opened fire and caused death of the two civilians. However, none of them chose to say it on-record.

Police version

Zonal Police Headquarters issued a statement at 1950 hours which said: “Today afternoon an alleged incident of misbehaviour with / molestation of a girl by an army man took place in Handwara town. Within minutes, public in large numbers gathered there and attacked the army bunker in Handwara chowk. They assaulted the personnel deployed there, ransacked the bunker and attempted to set fire to the bunker etc.

“In retaliation, the security forces deployed used force to disperse the violent rampaging mob. In the process, two individuals namely Mohammad Iqbal R/O Bomhama, Kupwara and Nayeem Qadir Bhat S/O Gh. Qadir Bhat R/O Banday Mohalla, Handwara, sustained fire-arm injuries. They were evacuated to hospital where they, unfortunately, succumbed to their injuries J&K Police deeply regrets the loss of life. A criminal case has been registered in Police Station Handwara and investigation launched to ascertain the facts”.

After two hours of clashes, Police succeeded to take the bodies back into their custody. It was not immediately clear when the funeral rites of the two youths would be performed.

Separatists call shutdown

Prominent separatist leaders, including heads of both factions of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik condemned the first civilian killings during Mehbooba Mufti’s government. They all called for a protest shutdown in Kashmir on Wednesday. Most of the separatist-friendly associations and organisations supported the call for strike.

Undeclared curfew in Srinagar

Authorities in the summer capital decided to enforce curfew without a formal declaration in downtown Srinagar on Wednesday. Official sources said that the movement of the members of Sikh community would be permitted as their major Gurudwara of Chhati Padshahi Bagh falls under jurisdiction of Police Stations of Rainawari and Nowhatta where “restrictions” would remain in force.

Mainstream politicians’ condemnation

From Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to NC leader Omar Abdullah and JKPCC President Ghulam Ahmad Mir and CPI(M) State Secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, almost all the prominent mainstream political leaders condemned the shootout in Handwara and called for a time-bound enquiry.



Girl contests molestation charge, says two students created mayhem

State Times News

SRINAGAR, April 12: While speaking to the local mediapersons, the 15-year-old girl student of Ganai Mohalla Handwara contested the charge of molestation against the unidentified soldier and claimed that nobody had stalked or physically accosted her while going to the toilet and coming out of it.

“When our school closed and we were returning to home, I handed over by bag to a female student friend and went into the bathroom. After a while, I came out and received the bag back from my friend. Two male students in uniform accosted me and while shouting began pulling my bag. One of them shouted: Are the Kashmiris benumbed? He began dragging me to the Police Station”, said the girl on camera.

“He slapped on me and beat me up. He hurled abuses. His accomplice Hilal Bhaiya too shouted. I asked him why he too was talking rubbish. I told him Hilal Bhaiya you have visited my home and you are well aware of the culture at my home. Why are you talking rubbish. I resisted their attempt to grab my bag and drag me to Police Station. I sighted a Policeman and told them I will come with this Police uncle. Too many people gathered. They didn’t listen to anybody. These two students provoked the people. It appeared that had hatched up a plan”, added the girl in a video available with STATE TIMES.

She claimed that one “Shafi Uncle” came to her rescue and it was with his help that she retrieved her bag and came back to her home.



Guilty will be punished: CM     
State Times News

NEW DELHI, April 12: Expressing tremendous grief over the killing of two youths at Handwara, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said the forces personnel involved in the incident would be handed exemplary punishment. 

She said she has already taken up the matter with the Army. 

Chief Minister, who was in the union capital for separate meetings with Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, talked to the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt Gen D S Hooda, who informed her that the Army had already ordered an enquiry into the incident and tangible action would be taken once the probe was completed.

Regarding the demand of the locals for shifting of the bunker from the area, the Army Commander assured the Chief Minister that the demand would be looked into.

Chief Minister said such tragic incidents have a huge negative impact on the efforts of the State Government and the political leadership aimed at consolidating the peace efforts in the State.

Ms Mufti said the security forces must exercise maximum restraint and adhere to the Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) while dealing with the public protests as incidents of innocent killings cannot be tolerated.

Chief Minister has expressed solidarity with the families of the two y

{Published in today's STATE TIMES]

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