Srinagar: The controversial firing in Jammu and Kashmir’s north-western town of Handwara in which three persons including a woman were killed on Tuesday is getting murkier as residents have alleged that it was the local police which targeted civilians with direct fire. They also said that the Army personnel, on the other hand, fired their weapons mainly in the air.
Reports of an alleged attempt by army personnel to molest a local girl student has sparked violent protests on Tuesday.
The local elders and other ‘respectable’ citizens on Wednesday held a meeting with senior police and administration authorities during which they on the basis of “eyewitness accounts” told them that while Army personnel also swung into action to disperse protesters, it were the J&K policemen who opened direct fire on them, killing a youth on the spot and critically injuring two others. One of them died on way to hospital whereas a third person is struggling for life after he was operated upon in a Srinagar hospital.
They also told the officials that the firing was so reckless and indiscriminate in nature that an elderly woman Raja Begum was also hit in the head even though she was standing at a distance from the scene of the clash and was not part of the protest.
After hearing them, the police authorities placed an ASI Muhammad Rafiq under suspension for “negligence of duty”. The action was taken on the basis of a formal letter written to the police by Kupwara’s district magistrate. The family members of the two slain youth had told the DC that it were ASI Rafiq who killed them in cold blood.
However, the police authorities said that the alleged molestation of the girl and subsequent firing incident are being probed and that it would be too early to draw conclusions.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Army released a video showing the girl who was reported to have been molested by an Army soldier leading to violent protests saying that it were actually two local youth who harassed her.
She also says that she didn’t see any Army personnel inside the public lavatory where she was, as per the tale spread by the youth, molested.
The Army said it has not filmed the video. It, however, also said that the Army has verified the authenticity of the video and identity of the girl. “The video is being released after obscuring the face to protect the identity of the girl keeping in view the sensitivities involved,” defence spokesman Lt. Col. N. N. Joshi said here.
According to reports from Handwara, the district authorities have accepted six demands put forth by the locals following which they agreed to bury their dead. These include removal of Army bunker from the main town square within one month, none of the civilians would be named in FIRs being lodged in connection with Tuesday’s incidents, a magisterial probe would be held and its finding made public also within a period of one month.
The police officer involved in the firing incident would be placed under suspension pending inquiry into his conduct, the government will provide maximum possible ex-gratia and other benefits to the bereaved families and all persons detained since Tuesday will be released unconditionally....