KASHMIR BREAKS OUT IN PROTESTS AFTER COPS KILL TWO STUDENTS, ONE A GIRL
SRINAGAR: Authorities have imposed curfew-like restrictions in parts of Kashmir to thwart protests against the killing of two students in firing by security forces at Pulwama district on Sunday.
Shaista Hameed, who was pursuing B.Ed and Danish Farooq Mir, a student of B.Tech, both residents of Pulwama, were killed when government forces opened fire on protesters who allegedly tried to break forces' cordon around a house in Kakapora village where a group of militants were holed up.
The killings sparked spontaneous protests in parts of Kashmir Valley on Sunday, including the summer capital Srinagar, following which the separatists groups called for state-wide shutdown on Monday while the authorities responded by imposing curbs on the movement of people and placing many Hurriyat leaders under house-arrest.
"Restrictions have been imposed in parts of old Srinagar city, Maisuma, Pulwama and Shopian to prevent the situation from going out of control. We are keeping a close eye on the situation," a senior J&K Police officer
At least dozen protesters were also injured in the Sunday's firing incident who have been admitted at different hospitals of the Valley, some with critical gunfire injuries. "Due to heavy stone pelting, two terrorists managed to escape. Six Army men received injuries, two in head in the stone pelting. Apart from this, 15 policemen also got injured in stone pelting. Case registered and investigation taken up," a statement issued by J&K Police said.
Sources said a surging crowd of protesters, including women and children, gathered at the site of encounter on Sunday afternoon and started pelting stones at the forces, allegedly to allow the holed up militants in creating an escape route. "Section 144 was in place at the site of encounter and the locals were asked to move back and allow the forces to eliminate the militants," a senior J&K Police officer, wishing anonymity, said.
Witnesses said the forces initially used teargas and charged at the protesters with batons in order to prevent them from breaking the cordon around the house where the militants were holed up. "The protesters refused to relent after which the forces pointed their guns at us and started firing left right and centre. It was like doomsday. There were screams everywhere and I started running," a protester who didn't want to be named said.
"The forces could have fired in the air but they targeted civilians deliberately. They didn't even spare women. Shaista and Danish were killed in cold blood by the murderers," said Ghulam Rasool, a villager from Kakapora, said.
Police sources said the clashes broke out as the encounter was going on between security forces and militants at Kakapora village. A police official said a militant identified as Adil Ahmad of Kakapora, who was affiliated with Lashkar-e-Toiba, was killed in the encounter while two more militants managed to escape.
"A large number of people were evacuated (from near the site of encounter) but a lady namely Shaista while taking cover was hit by a bullet. She was evacuated to hospital where she was declared dead. Some more miscreants / stone pelters received bullet injuries in the cross fire. A large number of people despite imposition of Sec 144 cprc (sic) came near encounter site where militants were firing indiscriminately on security forces from inside. They were pelting stones on security forces," the police statement said.
Condemning the killings, the Peoples Democratic Party president, Mehbooba Mufti, termed the incident as unfortunate. The PDP president said the incident could have been "avoided". "Such incidents are uncalled for and security forces must observe restrain while dealing with civilians in such a situation. The PDP president expresses her solidarity with the families of the firing victims," a PDP statement said.
National Conference Sunday also expressed grief over the loss of lives in Pulwama. Extending heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families on behalf of the party, a party spokesperson said such incidents are major setback to reconciliation and peace and add to the perception of alienation among the youth.
“This is a very tragic and heartbreaking incident. The Honourable Governor should ensure the guilty are identified and brought to justice in a time bound manner. Our hearts go out to the families of the two deceased youth and we pray for the smooth and complete recovery of those who have sustained serious injuries in this incident”, the NC Spokesperson said in a statement.