Nation Crime 12 Apr 2016 Budding cricketer am ...

Budding cricketer among 2 killed in Army firing on protestors in J&K's Handwara

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | YUSUF JAMEEL
Published Apr 12, 2016, 5:48 pm IST
Updated Apr 13, 2016, 9:32 am IST
People were protesting over alleged molestation of a college student by an Army jawan.
The girl alleged that she had gone to a public lavatory where an Army jawan molested her. (Photo: Habib Naqash)
 The girl alleged that she had gone to a public lavatory where an Army jawan molested her. (Photo: Habib Naqash)

Srinagar: Two people, including a budding cricketer, were killed in Army firing as Jammu and Kashmir’s north-western Handwara area erupted on Tuesday over alleged molestation of a local female student by an Army jawan.

A woman resident, Raja Begum, who was earlier presumed dead after sustaining bullet injuries in the shooting, is alive and has been shifted to a Srinagar hospital for advanced treatment. Her condition is stated to be critical. Police sources here said that the Army opened fire to quell a violent mob in Handwara town, 72 km from here, injuring three persons. One of them died on the sport whereas the other succumbed to the injuries on way to hospital. They have been identified as 21-year-old Muhammad Iqbal, a salesman at a local store, and Naeem Qadir Butt, who represented J&K in Under-19 cricket tournament recently. Seven other protesters were injured earlier in clashes with the police, which swung bamboosticks, fired teargas shells and also warning rifle shots in the air to contain protests. Hospital sources said that one of the slain youth had received fatal bullet wound in abdomen and the other on his head.

 

Late on Tuesday, the protesters also pulled down the tricolour, which the Army had hoisted at the town square some time ago.

The Army said it regrets the “unfortunate loss of life” in firing and assured that the guilty would be dealt with as per law. It also said that inquiry into the incident has been ordered. “Army deeply regrets the unfortunate loss of life. The matter will be investigated and anybody found guilty will be dealt as per the law,” a defence spokesman said here.

CM Mehbooba Mufti, expressing “tremendous grief” over the killings, said the Army personnel involved in the incident will be handed “exemplary punishment”. She said she has already taken up the matter with the Army. “The chief minister talked to the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda, who informed her that the Army has already ordered an inquiry into the incident and tangible action will be taken once the probe is completed,” a spokesman of the J&K government said, adding that the Army commander has also assured that the demand of the local residents that the Army camp be shifted from Handwara town would be looked into. “Such tragic incidents have a huge negative impact on the efforts of the government aimed at consolidating the peace efforts in Jammu and Kashmir,” she was quoted as saying.

 

She also said that the security forces must exercise maximum restraint and adhere to the Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) while dealing with the public protests “as incidents of innocent killings cannot be tolerated”.

The girl (name withheld by police) alleged that she had “by mistake” gone to a lavatory adjacent to the Army’s 21 Rashtriya Rifles camp at the town’s main square where a jawan misbehaved with her and even molested her. As the word spread, surging crowds held protests and also turned violent when police came in their way.

 

Police said that it tried to persuade the protesters by assuring them that action under law would be taken against the accused after recording the statement of the girl but in vain. The protesters, witnesses said, were demanding the Army should hand the accused jawan over to the police in their presence.

They encircled the Army camp and started hurling rocks at it, prompting the soldiers to open fire, witnesses said. Police officials denied the police or CRPF while containing situation resorted to direct firing at the protesters and said that a video which shows them in action and which has gone viral on social networking sites since was of the violent protests spreading in the area following the killing of two youth.

 

In the evening, J&K police issued a statement saying that within minutes of alleged incident of misbehaviour with and molestation of the girl by an Army man people in large numbers gathered in Handwara and attacked the Army bunker in the town’s main square. “They assaulted the personnel deployed there, ransacked the bunker and attempted to set it to fire. In retaliation the security forces deployed used force to disperse the violent rampaging mob. In the process, two persons sustained firearm injuries. They were evacuated to hospital where they, unfortunately, succumbed to their injuries”, it said adding “J&K Police deeply regrets the loss of life”.

 

The statement also said that a criminal case has been registered in Police Station Handwara and investigation launched to ascertain the facts.

Reports from Handwara said that an Army bunker in the heart of Handwara town was attacked and subsequently set to fire by a mob in reprisal to the killing of the protesters. Handwara is a bastion of regional Peoples’ Conference whose chairman Sajad Gani Lone elected from the area in the last Assembly elections is an ally of the BJP and a minister in the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP government. Demanding an impartial inquiry into the incidents, he said “The loss of two youth is very unfortunate. An impartial and time bound inquiry should be taken up into the killing”.

 

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