India: 4 Civilians Killed By Police in Kashmir

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
160413-IN-civilian-killings-620.jpg Relatives in Langate, Kashmir, mourn the death of Raja Begum, who was killed during protests a day earlier, April 13, 2016.

Parts of Indian-administered Kashmir remained tense amid curfew-like restrictions on Wednesday, after police allegedly killed four civilians by firing into crowds to disperse protests over claims that a soldier tried to molest a schoolgirl.

Jahangir Ahmad Wani, 21, died after being struck on the head by a tear gas shell in Jammu and Kashmir’s northern Kupwara district during protests on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to four since clashes between locals and security forces erupted a day earlier.

“The security forces could have fired in the air to disperse the crowd. But they were taking aim at the protesters and shooting,” Nisar Ahmad, a Kupwara resident who was part of Wednesday’s protests, told BenarNews.

“We want exemplary punishment for those responsible for the deaths of these innocent civilians,” he added.

Authorities on Wednesday cut off internet services across north Kashmir in a bid “to prevent people from spreading false information or organizing protests,” state officials said.

Since the Indian subcontinent was carved up in 1947, the predominantly Muslim region of Kashmir has been the focus of wars and tensions between India and Pakistan, both of which have territorial claims over it. More than 70,000 people have been killed since a separatist insurgency broke out in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1989.

The latest violence broke out after news spread that a soldier had allegedly attempted to molest a schoolgirl in Handwara, a district town some 70 km (43.4 miles) from Srinagar. The girl denied the claim that a soldier attacked her.

In a video released by the Indian army, the girl stated that she was at a public toilet when a youth tried to snatch her bag. When she resisted, the youth and other civilians started shouting and instigating violence, according to media reports.

Within minutes, hundreds of protesters poured out into the streets and began hurling stones at security forces personnel, who retaliated by opening fire, reports said.

Nayeem Qadir Bhat, 21, a budding state-level cricketer, Mohammad Iqbal, 22, and Raja Begum, 54, a housewife, died after being shot in Tuesday’s clash.

Probe ordered

Even as authorities ordered an investigation into the killings, Rafiq Ahmad, the assistant sub-inspector of police who gave the order to open fire on protesters, was suspended for mishandling the situation, police said.

“A magisterial probe has been ordered. After investigations are completed, the guilty, whosoever it is, will be dealt under the law. Meanwhile, I appeal to people to maintain calm,” Kupwara Deputy Commissioner Kumar Rajeev Ranjan told BenarNews

State Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is on her maiden visit to New Delhi after assuming office, met Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and sought an investigation into the killings.

Describing them as unfortunate, Mufti told reporters, “I spoke to [the] defense minister. He assured me that a probe will be initiated and the culprits will be punished.

“At the same time, the families [of the victims] will be compensated. Such incidents should not happen in the future,” she said.

Cricket dreams

Earlier on Wednesday, hundreds of mourners defied an army-imposed curfew to attend the funerals of the three civilians killed on Tuesday, leading to fresh clashes.

As Bhat was being laid to rest, his brother, Zahoor Qadir, spoke to BenarNews on the phone.

“He [Bhat] dreamed of playing [cricket] for India. Everyone in town believed that he would one day don the India jersey. He was a brilliant cricketer, full of life. But now, he is lying motionless in front of me, wrapped in a white cloth,” Qadir said.


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