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There Was No Stone Throwing In Our Village, Yet The Army Came And Shot Dead Three Youth (Including A 15-Year-Old Girl)

The Army denies the allegations.

Travelling to south Kashmir has always been an adventure – lush green valleys and mountains, rivulets and above all, the heart-warming and welcoming people. However, a small incident in October 2010, initially overlooked by most, changed the scenic as well as the political landscape of South Kashmir. Hizbul Mujahideen’s poster boy Burhan Muzaffar Wani, his younger brother and one of his friends were beaten and harassed by the Special Operations Group (SoG) of the Jammu & Kashmir Police. Eight years down the line, South Kashmir is no less than a war zone.

Two years ago on July 8 2016,  Burhan Wani, along with two other militants, was killed in an encounter carried out by the SoG of the Jammu & Kashmir police.

A high ranking official of the SoG, who is intimately involved in the anti-militancy operations in South Kashmir told NewsCentral24x7 on condition of anonymity, “It would take around five years for south Kashmir to get back to normal, if we are able to control the influx of local boys into the militant ranks.”

The journey

South of Kashmir consists of four districts – Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian. As most local and foreign militants are active in Pulwama and Shopian, these districts have witnessed more bloodshed than Anantnag and Kulgam. The entire highway has been dotted with checkpoints and army in black uniform.

From 2015 to 2017, most casualties suffered by government forces were between Panth Chowk in Srinagar and Galander crossing on Pulwama road. In one attack, eight Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed near Pampore on June 26, 2016.

To overcome such attacks and safeguards its forces, the government of India threw open a parallel road which bypasses major towns of districts Anantnag and Pulwama – Pampore, Awantipora and Bijbehara. Every fifteen steps, one can find three to five army and CRPF personnel manning this new road. An Army or CRPF bunker has been erected at every fifty to sixty steps, fitted with CCTV cameras to keep a tight vigil on the movement of militants.

Losing the young

Since 2015, the authorities have been maintaining that only 200 to 220 militants, including both locals and foreigners, are active in Kashmir, even though locals have been joining the militant ranks in droves.

In the fight between militants and government forces, it is mostly the young generation in Kashmir that has been losing their lives, for reasons like saving trapped militants from the gunfighting sites. Police records suggest that at least 106 civilians have died in forces’ firing near gunfight sites, mostly in south Kashmir, since January 2017. In the past week, five civilians, including a minor girl, have been killed by forces’ firing across Kashmir.

The Hawoora horror

On July 7, just a day before second death anniversary of militant commander Burhan Wani’, Kashmir witnessed one of the bloodiest Saturdays in its history. Three youth, including a fifteen-year-old girl, were shot dead by the army in Hawoora village of district Kulgam in south Kashmir.

The areas of Redwani, Khudwani and Frisal have been the most volatile areas of district Kulgam in southern Kashmir. Amidst a complete shutdown and rising tension between government forces and the locals, I, along with a group of journalists, managed to reach Hawoora village via Tchloo village on July 9. The distance between Tchloo and Hawoora is almost three kilometres. From Tchloo to Hawoora, graffitis of Pakistani flags welcome the visitors. The stretch seems to be a “free-zone” but with security personnel present only a stone’s throw away.

Hawoora village, which is in complete mourning, blamed the army for the killing of three youth. Explaining what happened on the morning of July 7, a local of told NewsCentral24x7, “There was no stone-throwing in our village, yet the army came and killed the three youth..”

The locals said that the stone throwing had taken place in Asthan Mohalla and not in Hawoora. A kilometre separates Hawoora from Asthan Mohalla. “There were two army vehicles. They fired on people, indiscriminately”, said a relative of Shakir Ahmed who was the first among the three shot dead by the army on Saturday morning. Shakir Ahmed, 22, was coming back after working at a local graveyard when the army fired at him. He died instantly.

The second to be shot dead was Irshad Majid (21). He was fired at near a cowshed, only a few meters away from the house of the fifteen-year-old Andleeb Jan. Irshad too died on the spot. The cow in the shed has also sustained two bullet injuries. However, the cow has survived.

Andleeb, who is the cousin sister of Shakir, upon hearing that he was shot, ran out of her home with her friends, carrying a glass of water for Shakir. “They had come with the intention to kill us”, Andleeb’s father, Ali Muhammad Elahi told NewsCentral24x7.

Andleeb was shot at on her right thigh. “They (army) did not allow anyone to come near the bodies. She died of blood loss. They kept firing from all sides. We only managed to take Andleeb’s body after the army left the spot”, said Elahi. “We could not take her to the hospital in time. Had the army allowed us to take her body in time, things might have been different,” said Elahi.

Irshad’s brother had the same tale to tell, “It took me more than one hour to reach near the body of Irshad. I too feared for my life. I had thought that I was shot in my ankle, such was the intensity of the firing.”

While Irshad and Shakir died on the spot, Andleeb was taken to the Primary Health Centre in Frisal area where she breathed her last. “Another girl who was accompanying Andeelb sustained a bullet injury in her right hand,” said Elahi.

The locals also alleged that before shooting the three youth, the army entered the Government High School in Hawoora and beat up students and teachers. They said that four students are still in army detention since then.

Meanwhile, the army has wholly denied these allegations saying that a mob of 400 to 500 people attacked the Area Domination Patrol (ADP) of the army.

“All these allegations are baseless. We fired in self-defence. Unless provoked, the army never opens fire on civilians,” Srinagar based Army spokesman R K Pandey told NewsCentral24x7.

He added,“Some unidentified militants fired on the army in the area and some army men received grievous injuries. In response to this grave provocation and to ensure the security of own troops, controlled firing was resorted to by the Army which resulted in the unfortunate loss of human lives.”

Zahid and Junaid are younger brothers of deceased Irshad. Junaid narrated a horrific story, “When Zahid saw Irshad getting shot, he ran towards him. The army fired directly at Zahid’s legs. Then, they dragged Zahid and tied him to a tree. He was beaten to a pulp even while both his legs were bleeding profusely. We could only take Zahid to the hospital after the army left.” Zahid is under specialised treatment at Bone and Joint Hospital in Srinagar. Both his legs are broken and he has bruises all over his body.

Tail Piece

The worrying thing is that Kashmir’s younger generation continues to lose their lives to bullets that they have always loathed. To provide succour to the people of Kashmir, a political outreach is the need of the hour. However, after publicly humiliating veteran Kashmir politician Mufti Muhammad Sayeed at a public rally in Srinagar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has failed miserably to provide any such relief. Without paying any heed to the ongoing bloodshed in Kashmir, Modi has failed to walk Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s path. It remains to be seen whether he will do so if he wins the 2019 general election.

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