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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

2 killed, one critical as ADC’s PSO opens fire on crowd near Pampore

Protesters torched Bolero of ADC Ramban on highway at Lethapora near Pampore; Yatra convoy stopped; Minister's house attacked with petrol bombs

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Aug 2: Two civilians reportedly got killed and another was critically injured when a crowd attacked Additional Deputy Commissioner of Ramban and torched his vehicle at Lethapora, near Pampore, on Srinagar-Jammu national highway after his Personal Security Officer (PSO) opened fire on the protesters late on Tuesday night.

Authoritative sources told STATE TIMES that a crowd of protesters pelted stones on the official Bolero of ADC Ramban Babu Ram near Lethapora, close to the saffron township of Pampore, on Srinagar-Jammu national highway when it was on way to Ramban from Srinagar at 9.15 pm. The crowd forced the driver to stop and caused extensive damage to the vehicle even as Mr Babu Ram, his driver and two PSOs jumped out.

As the protesters sighted the PSOs, they attacked them and set the vehicle on fire. During the scuffle, one of the PSOs opened fire from his AK-47 rifle that hit at least three persons. Sources said that 32-year-old Farooq Ahmad Kuchhai later succumbed to injuries near SKIMS in Srinagar while as Suhail Ahmad Wani died somewhere near Kakapora when he was being rushed to hospital. With the two fresh fatal casualties, death toll has reached 52 in the 25-day-long turbulence triggered by militant Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter on July 8.

Residents, however, insisted that the crowd torched the vehicle only after the officer's PSO opened fire, killing two protesters. They said that the vehicle on way from Srinagar to Jammu was stopped by the people like many other vehicles to check as to who were travelling in it.
DIG South Kashmir Ghulam Hassan Bhat and SP Awantipora Sridhar Patil could not be reached by telephone. Mobile phones of DC Pulwama Muneer-ul-Islam were switched off.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan maintained that one civilian had got killed and another injured. He said he was assessing the situation as a large number of the people had gathered on the spot late in the night. According to reports available with him, ADC was on way from Srinagar to Jammu when his vehicle was intercepted by the crowd.

Babu Ram, who had taken shelter at nearby company headquarters of CRPF 130 Bn on premises of the godowns of Food Corporation of India, told STATE TIMES on telephone that he was in shock and unable to narrate what happened with him and his PSOs and driver. He, however, said that an unruly mob attacked his vehicle near Lethapora.

“We were all manhandled. I was severely beaten up. People set the vehicle on fire and attempted to snatch the rifle of my PSO. Someone fired on him or a bullet hit him from the gun which was being snatched away. They failed to take the gun but took away a magazine. Thereafter, we ran away and took shelter in the CRRP camp”, Babu Ram said.

Civilian sources around the spot said that thousands of people from about a dozen neighbouring villages gathered on the highway and they were making repeated attempts to storm the camp. CRPF used tearsmoke and fired in the air to scare away the crowd. Clashes and slogans were going on when reports last came in at around midnight. Officials were apprehensive of more casualties in case the crowd stormed the camp. They said that as per SOP, CRPF could open fire to protect the camp, its personnel and armoury.

Meanwhile, sources said that the convoy of Amarnath pilgrims, that was scheduled to leave Baltal for Jammu late tonight, was stopped under orders of SSP Yatra. Unconfirmed reports said that the convoy of pilgrims that had earlier in the evening departed for Baltal from Jammu, would also be stopped around Patni Top in view of escalation of fresh trouble at Lethapora, Awantipore.

Two fresh fatalities in the Valley’s most volatile area occurred after days of lesser intensity turbulence on 25th day of continued shutdown, curfew and clashes. Most of the 50-odd persons, including two Police personnel, had got killed in the first 10 days of violence, beginning on July 9. The last fatal casualties had occurred on July 18 when three civilians, including two women, got killed in Army’s firing on protesters at Churhat in Kulgam district followed by death of a civilian protester who was hit by a teargas shell at Chursu, Awantipore, on July 22. Some of the injured succumbed later but no fresh fatal casualty had occurred in the in the last 11 days.

Shutdown on 25th day

While as the separatist-sponsored shutdown continued without break on 25th consecutive day, curfew remained in force in parts of downtown Srinagar, Anantnag, Kokernag and Kulgam towns. Officials said that restrictions under section 144 CrPC were imposed in several areas. As per the separatist leaders’ programme, shops opened in uptown Srinagar and some other areas at 6.00 pm. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have asked the Kashmiris to enjoy relaxation in shutdown daily from 6.00 pm to 8.00 am.

Reports said that almost all shops, private offices and business establishments including banks and educational institutions were closed though Government offices operated with skeletal attendance of staff.

"Curfew is in place only in six police station areas of Srinagar city -- Nowhatta, Khanyar, Rainawari, Safakadal, Batamaloo and Maharajgunj," an official spokesman said.

The separatist camp has extended the shutdown call in Kashmir till August 5, calling for a march to Hazratbal.

Reports said that nine protesters sustained injuries in a clash at Imamsahab in Shopian area while as low intensity clashes took place at over 20 places in different districts. People took out protest rallies at several places in Kulgam, Bijbehara and Anantnag areas.

Militant addresses rally

At Ghat Khudwani, reports said, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant Lateef Dar addressed a rally of over 3,000 people. He said that people would be within their right not to follow the separatist movement but they should not get the militants killed or arrested by Police and security forces.

Minister’s house attacked

Late on Monday night, official sources said, unidentified persons hurled two petrol bombs on the private residential house of senior PDP leader and Minister of Education Naeem Akhtar. One of the bombs went off and caused minor damage though nobody was harmed as nobody was present in the targeted house.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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