8 youth killed, 150 injured by forces as large-scale protests, clashes mar polling in Srinagar parliamentary constituency | 5 of injured critical | Scores hit by pellets | Internet blockade, which may continue till Apr 12, helps little to tackle situation | DGP says over 100 forces personnel injured
At least eight youth were killed by forces and over 150 injured as large-scale protests and clashes marred polling in the high-profile Srinagar parliamentary constituency on Sunday, even as the three Kashmir districts that went to the polls observed a near-total boycott of the electoral exercise on the call of Valley’s joint resistance leadership. This is perhaps for the first time that such massive protests and clashes have rocked the Valley, especially Central Kashmir’s Budgam district, on a day of polling that also saw incidents of protesters barging into polling booths and damaging a number of Electronic Voting Machines. Five of the injured persons are stated to be critical, according to witnesses and doctors.
According to official sources, the youth killed by forces are in age group of 15 to 25 and were killed in “direct firing” on protestors in at least seven areas. Among the injured, more than 100 were admitted to different Srinagar hospitals while rest are either admitted elsewhere or discharged from respective district and sub-district hospitals.
Witnesses and reports said police and paramilitary forces deployed for poll duty in Budgam, Srinagar and Ganderbal districts resorted to intense teargas shelling and firing to disperse youth who came hurling rocks at scores of polling stations. Even some polling stations in Budgam were abandoned following intense clashes, they said.
KILLINGS BY FORCES
Witnesses said at around 11 am, Faizan Fayaz Dar (15) and Abass Jahangir (22), both students of Higher Secondary School Dalwan were killed after Border Security Forces opened fire on protestors in Budgam area. Both Faizan and Abass were shifted to a hospital where they were declared as brought dead. The body of Abass was yet to be handed over to his family when this report was filed late on Sunday night, but Faizan was laid to rest in his native village at 2 pm amid massive participation of people in his funeral prayers. In the firing incident, at least 22 others were injured, according to local residents.
In the second firing incident that took place at around 12 pm, Shabir Ahmad Bhat (22) son of Ghulam Muhammad was killed after Central Reserve Police Force personnel opened fire in Dawlatpora area of Chadoora, Budgam. He received bullets in neck and shoulder and was shifted to a hospital, but succumbed before reaching there.
In the third firing incident at 1 pm, Nissar Ahmad Mir (25) son of Ghulam Muhammad of Ratsun, Beerwah (Budgam) was killed after a joint party of police and paramilitary forces lobbed teargas shells and opened fire on protestors who had hit the streets against the elections. Nissar received multiple bullet injuries, some of these in his chest, according to witnesses. “He was shifted to a hospital but was declared as brought dead by doctors there,” they said.
In the fourth firing incident at around 1.20 pm, a joint party of police and CRPF opened fire on protestors, resulting in killing of Akeel Ahmad Wani (22) of Churmujroo, Beerwah. In the fifth firing incident at 4 pm, Adil Farooq Sheikh (19) of Yarigund, Kawoosa Khalisa was killed after receiving pellets in his face and chest, according to reports. “He was brought to JVC hospital at Bemina where doctors declared him as brought dead,” he said.
In another firing incident at 7.30 pm, witnesses said, Amir Ahmad Rathray (20) son of Manzoor Ahmad of Dadwanpora Chadoora was killed after CRPF opened fire on a group of youth in Sogam.
“Amir was staying at his maternal grandfather’s house,” they said.
Residents said he was on his way to a tutor when he was fired upon by CRPF. They said the CRPF party was coming from Kralewara area when it opened the fire. “As soon as the forces reached Sogam, they fired upon Aamir resulting in his spot death,” the residents said.
At 8.15 pm, the Border Security Force personnel opened fire on a group of protestors on Srinagar-Barsoo road, killing Amir Farooq Ganie of Barsoo on spot. Besides killing of eight civilians, a 55-year-old lady Jana Bagum of Dalwan reportedly suffered heart attack. Officials did not relate the death of the lady with the current situation.
“Only eight people have died,” Director General of Police, Dr SP Vaid told Greater Kashmir.
During the six firing incidents, 53 other civilians were injured and of these seven had bullet injuries, 25 were hit by pellets and 21 others received injuries due teargas shells, according to reports and witnesses. Most of the injured were hit by pellets in eyes.
Witnesses and reports said youth in several areas of Budgam and Srinagar hit streets against the bypolls. The Valley’s joint resistance leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik had called for a complete boycott of the elections and a shutdown in poll-bound areas.
In several areas in Budgam, reports said, youth hurled rocks at polling stations and also damaged several electronic voting machines. In some areas, youth were seen barging into polling stations and holding pro-freedom protests in front of police and paramilitary personnel—in apparently a first instance in Budgam where a massive boycott of the polls was seen, apart from large-scale protests and clashes on the polling day.
Reports said the protests and clashes in countless Budgam areas started at around 9 am and continued unabated till the filing of this report. They said intense clashes took place in almost every nook and corner of the district that has apparently erupted on a polling day for the first time ever. There were slogans in favour of freedom in areas where clashes and protests were seen, reports and witnesses said.
Pertinently, in a gunfight in Chadoora area of Budgam recently, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant was killed while three civilians killed after police and army opened fire on protestors in the area.
Reports said at around 37 polling stations, officials had to wind up polling after intense clashes erupted there. “About two dozen EVMs were also damaged during the clashes,” they said, while protestors also allegedly torched a bus at a polling station in Beerwah.
Official sources told Greater Kashmir that about 200 incidents of protests and stone-pelting were reported in three districts and about 150 in Bugdam alone. Elsewhere in Srinagar and Ganderbal areas, more than 41 incidents of stone-pelting were reported during the day, they said.
In Srinagar, which was relatively calm during the day, five people were injured in firing—three of them were hit by bullets. They are admitted at SK Institute of Medical Sciences at Soura.
Two youth sustained injuries in Zainakote area on Srinagar outskirts after forces resorted to firing and tear smoke shelling on protesters, a report said. One of the injured was hit by a bullet but officials did not confirm it.
Reports said some policemen allegedly forcibly entered SM Iqbal College during the previous night at around 1 pm and converted it into a polling booth.
Chairman of the College Mohsin Iqbal said: “Policemen from Humhama police station barged into the college at 1 pm and damaged furniture and broke locks.”
“We appeal to DGP to probe the matter,” he said.
During the day, some people attacked the college and smashed windowpanes, he said.
In Ganderbal, about 21 incidents of stone-pelting and clashes were reported in which about a dozen people were injured, according to witnesses.
Though the pro-freedom leadership had called for shutdown in poll-bound areas only, it was observed in most parts of Kashmir. Besides Budgam, Srinagar and Ganderbal, the shutdown was observed in south and north Kashmir as well where vehicles were off the roads and all business establishments remained shut.
OVER 100 FORCES PERSONNEL INJURED: DGP
Director General of Police, (DGP), SP Vaid on Sunday evening called a meeting here which was attended by senior police officers.
The meeting was on when this report was filed. “So far there is programme of imposing curfew or restrictions tomorrow,” Dr Vaid told Greater Kashmir. He said they are monitoring the developments.
The DGP said eight people have been killed and 17 civilians injured. He said over hundred forces personnel were injured. “About 30 EVMs were damaged and the polling at many booths was disrupted,” he said.
While the J&K government imposed internet blockade from midnight of Saturday-Sunday in view of the polls, it seemingly helped little to tackle the situation on ground as protests were seen spreading to localities regardless, an official said.
INTERNET SERVICES TO REMAIN SUSPENDED TILL APR 12
Internet services will remain suspended in the entire Kashmir valley till conclusion of the by-poll for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat on April 12, official sources told PTI on Sunday.
The decision followed large scale protests and clashes during the by-poll for the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency on Sunday which claimed the lives of seven people in firing by forces. Dozens of civilians were wounded, while over 100 security personnel injured in clashes.
Internet services in three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal, which the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency straddles, were shut down last midnight as a precautionary measure to “prevent floating of rumours by anti-national elements.”