Civilians march towards encounter site in large numbers; 35 sustain injuries in forces’ action; House, where militant was holed up, razed to ground; Police chief says will probe cause of civilian deaths
Three youth were killed while 35 others sustained injuries when government forces opened fire to disperse protesters near a gunfight site in Chadoora area of Central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Tuesday, even as a militant was killed in a fierce gunfight in the same area.
Police sources said acting on a tip-off about presence of militants in Durbugh village in Chadoora, the soldiers of army’s 53 Rashtriya Rifles, J&K police and personnel of Central Reserve Police Force cordoned off house of Ghulam Qadir Baba on Tuesday morning. As the forces zeroed in on the house, a militant there opened fire, which was retaliated to, triggering an encounter. There was a heavy exchange of fire between both sides while entry and exit points to the area were sealed by the forces, witnesses said.
“As the encounter raged, massive protests by youth, who were trying to inch closer to the house where the militant was trapped, led to the escalation of tension in the area,” witnesses said, adding: “While on one side, heavy firing was going on intermittently between forces and the militant, protestors on the other side attacked the forces personnel who were part of the ‘outer cordon’, with bricks and stones.”
Witnesses said the forces initially fired in the air and hurled dozens of tear-gas shells and pellets to disperse the protestors. But, they said, the protestors continued with chanting pro-freedom slogans and walked through nearby paddy fields and resorted to intense clashes with forces in a bid to help the trapped militant flee.
“As the protests intensified, the forces tried to blow up the house by using grenades and other explosives to end the encounter. But since the house was concrete and recently-constructed, it threw up a challenge for them. In between, hundreds of youth managed to reach Durbagh and were only a kilometer away from the house where the militant was holed up,” witnesses added.
“As the protesters refused to relent, the forces opened fire on them,” witnesses said.
A protester said: “They (forces) fired directly and indiscriminately at us.”
In the firing, the witnesses said, a bullet hit the neck of a youth who was later identified as Zahid Rashid Ganai son of Abdur Rashid. He was immediately shifted to Sub-District Hospital Chadoora.
“He had grave injuries and we referred him to SMHS hospital in Srinagar,” said Block Medical Officer Chadoora, Dr Daler Ahmad Bhat. Ganai, 24, however, was declared as brought dead by doctors at the SMHS hospital.
Another youth, who was hit by a bullet in his chest and identified as Amir Fayaz Waza, 18, son of Fayaz Ahmed of Waza Mohalla, Wathoora, was also referred to SMHS hospital from SDH Chadoora. He also succumbed to the injuries later.
Yet another youth, Ishaq Ahmed Wani, 24, son of Abdur Rashid of Waoosa, Rangreth, was also brought to SMHS hospital where he breathed his last.
Medical Superintendent of SMHS hospital Dr Nazir Choudhary said Ganai had a bullet injury in his neck while Waza was hit by a bullet in his chest. “We tried our best to resuscitate the duo but couldn’t succeed,” he said. About the third slain youth, he said a bullet had pierced through his chest. “He too couldn’t be resuscitated.”
‘OVER 35 INJURED’
Reports said as forces resorted to indiscriminate firing on protestors, more than 35 people sustained bullet, pellet and teargas shell injuries. One of the injured persons identified as Irfan Ahmed was operated upon for bullet injury at Bone and Joints hospital late on Tuesday evening, sources said.
“In total, 28 injured were brought to SDH Chadoora,” the hospital sources said.
Eight injured were admitted at Bone and Joints Hospital Barzulla while 15, majority of those shifted from SDH Chadoora, were admitted at SMHS hospital.
Hospital sources said 10 youth had bullet injuries.
Protesters also clashed with forces outside SDH Chadoora resulting in injuries to many, reports and witnesses said.
“The protestors smashed windowpanes of two ambulances and vandalized Casualty Block. They were later pacified by some elderly people,” said an official at SDH Chadoora.
Earlier, youth stoned a convoy of Central Reserve Police Force at Nagam village, three kilometers away from the encounter site. The convoy was heading towards the site as part of the reinforcement, sources said.
HIZB MILITANT KILLED
In more than 10-hour-long gunfight, police said a militant identified as Touseef Ahmed Wagay of Kanjgul, Yaripora, Kulgam, was killed.
Police sources said Wagay had joined Hizbul Mujahideen early last year. “One militant was killed in the encounter,” said Army’s Srinagar-based spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia.
House where the militant was holed up was blown up with Improvised Explosive Devices
Photo Habib Naqash/GK
HOUSE BLOWN UP
Earlier, witnesses said the forces blew up the house where the militant was holed up amid intense clashes between forces and youth at the site.
“The house being concrete didn’t collapse entirely; only a major portion of the house was razed to the ground while all windows and window panes suffered intense damage due to shells, grenades and bullets fired by the forces,” witnesses said.
Reports said hundreds of people were waiting for the body of slain militant at his native village in Kulgam.
CIVILIAN DEATHS UNFORTUNATE: DGP
J&K’s Director General of Police S P Vaid said three youth were killed during the encounter while as a militant was also gunned down. “The killing of three youth is very unfortunate and Deputy Inspector General of Police (Central Kashmir range) will look into the circumstances that led to the trio’s killing,” Vaid told Greater Kashmir over phone from New Delhi.
CLASHES IN OLD SRINAGAR
As the news of the killing of three youth reached Srinagar, massive protests erupted in various old city areas and remained on till late in the evening, reports and witnesses said.
Reports said youth hurled stones and bricks at forces at Qamarwari, Safa Kadal, Kawdara, Saraf Kadal and various other areas. Forces retaliated with firing of tear gas shells, they said.
Inspector General of CRPF (Srinagar sector) Ravideep Sahi claimed that at least 43 CRPF men and 25 policemen were injured during clashes between youth and forces at Chadoora. “It was a difficult day for us,” Sahi said.