SRINAGAR: Two girl students are among the three females who were attacked with pellets by government forces yesterday, reportedly after facing a hostile crowd during a search operation in a village of south Kashmir.

At least 30 people, including a retired police officer, were injured when forces went on a rampage and fired aerial shots, pellets and teargas to disperse locals who tried to resist house-to-house search operation in Ruhmoo village of south Kashmir's Pulwama district, sources said.

Local witnesses told The Citizen a joint team of police, paramilitary and Army, reportedly looking for youths who participate in protests, laid a siege around the village on Monday afternoon and later barged into houses where they allegedly assaulted the inhabitants without provocation.

They said the alleged highhandedness sparked anger among the villagers who poured onto the roads and started a protest demonstration, which was dispersed by forces. Soon, amid sloganeering, clashes and stone-pelting broke out in the area.

"There was chaos all around. Dozens of teargas shells, pellets and bullets were fired by forces but the protesters gave them stiff resistance. Some officers were injured which agitated the forces who then barged into the houses and assaulted anyone who crossed their path," local sources said.

In its daily email briefing on the prevailing crisis, the J&K Police said "miscreants" pelted stones on the forces in the village after the search operation was launched and a "mob assembled and pelted stones on the security forces camp".

"The reinforcement was sent to the spot. In this incident some persons, police and CRPF personnel including three officers were injured. Most of the injured were discharged after first aid,” the J&K Police spokesperson said in the statement.

In the ensuing clashes, sources said at least 30 people were injured with six of them suffering pellet injuries. Doctors at the SMHS hospital in capital Srinagar, where the gravely injured were brought for treatment, said the 13-year-old Ifrah Jan, a Class 5 student, has pellet injuries in both eyes.

"Why can't I see? What has happened to me? Can someone please tell me what's going on? Are they going to operate me. I don't want undergo operation. Please take me home" Ifrah cried, as doctors at SHMS hospital struggled to dress up the perforation caused by pellets on her face.

Another girl student, Afroza, 16, a Class 8 student and Shabroza, 20, have been admitted to the hospital with multiple pellet injuries, hospital sources said.

"I told them that I am a retired DSP, but they didn’t listen. They thrashed me and my children without any provocation. If they treat a decorated police officer like this, what will they do to a common man,” Ghuam Rasool Rather, who was assaulted by forces told a news agency.

According to locals, the forces roughed up several locals, including women, and also smashed dozens of windowpanes of houses and windscreens of vehicles in the village but they could not make any arrests due to heightened tensions.

Authorities in Kashmir have launched a sweeping crackdown on freedom protesters with at least 7000 persons, many of them affiliated with the Hurriyat, arrested or detained in over 2400 FIRs lodged since the killing of Burhan Wani in July.

Most of these arrests have been made during nocturnal raids in the four districts of south Kashmir which has been the epicentre of the prevailing crisis. The Army is also in the middle of executing the 'Operation Calm Down' in these districts which remained out of bounds for the civil administration for nearly two months.

Although the arrest spree has brought about a semblance of normalcy in the valley, allegations of highhandedness by forces during search operations and trumping-up charges against the detainees has alienated the locals who are reeling under nearly four months of shutdown and curfew.

(Representational Image BASIT ZARGAR)