India: Kashmiri Separatist Leaders Freed from Custody

By Adeel Shah
150420-IN-suhail-620 Relatives mourn over Suhail Ahmed Sofi, 15, who was shot dead by police near Srinagar, April 18, 2015.

Authorities in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir on Sunday night freed three Kashmiri separatist leaders from house arrest, a day after arresting two policemen for allegedly shooting dead a 15-year-old boy during anti-India protests.

The state government ordered the release of separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Shabir Ahmad Shah and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. But another separatist leader, Masarat Alam Bhat, remained in custody Monday, following his arrest last week.

“We have released all the separatist leaders on Sunday evening and have called back our personnel that were deployed outside the houses of separatist leaders,” police spokesman Manoj Pandita told BenarNews on Monday.

The four separatists were arrested amid violent protests in Kashmir that followed the killing there, on April 13, of a militant commander’s brother. The man shot dead by Indian soldiers in Tral, in South Kashmir, was Khalid Muzaffar, a 25-year-old civilian.

The atmosphere in the Kashmir Valley became even tenser following Saturday’s shooting by police in Budgam district of a teenager, identified by his family as Suhail Ahmed Sofi.

The two police arrested for Suhail’s killing were identified as Constable Javaid Ahmad and Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Manzoor Ahmad.

“We arrested two policemen who have violated the standard operating procedure, while handling the situation,” Inspector General of Police Mujtaba Gilani told BenarNews.

A preliminary investigation revealed that Manzoor Ahmad had ordered officers to open fire on protesters, according to Pandita, the police spokesman.

“A police constable, Javaid Ahmad, fired with his service rifle on the directions of ASI Manzoor Ahmad, which violated the standard operating procedure,” he said.

“The officer heading the police station, Inspector Khursheed Rehman, has also been attached for lack of supervision.”

Local accounts

According to residents of Narbal, Suhail’s hometown in Budgam district, a group of youths was protesting Bhat’s arrest when police shot at them.

“It was the police who opened fire at the protesters,” local resident Umar Ahmad told BenarNews.

“Police could have handled the situation carefully, but they killed an innocent.”

“I was with Suhail when police opened fire. Two police vehicles came and started firing on some youths who were throwing stones,” said Suhail’s cousin, Shakeel Ahmad.

“They didn’t fire tear smoke shells and instead used live ammunition.”

Since the early 1990s, predominantly Muslim Kashmir has been in the throes of a separatist insurgency, in which an estimated 89,000 people have died, the Associated Press reported.


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