Four persons were injured when army opened fire to disperse protesters following an alleged braid cutting attempt near Pahalgam in Anantnag district on Wednesday. Army said it fired on the people in self defence.
The incident took place at around 7 a.m. in Wularhama, Pahalgam, after residents chased an alleged braid cutter who tried to flee in an army vehicle, a witness told Greater Kashmir.
"One person attempted to cut hair of a lady inside her house and people chased him. Army rushed to his rescue," he added.
The incident triggered protests in the area as people pelted army vehicle with stones. "The army opened fire, injuring four people," sources said.
Soon police and paramilitary forces reached the spot and dispersed the agitated protesters by resorting to teargas shelling and firing pellets, injuring one more protester.
All the injured were rushed to a local hospital where from they were moved to district hospital Anantnag for treatment. "We received five injuries from Wularhama and all of them are extrinsic ones and were treated here," said a doctor at district hospital Anantnag.
The injured were identified as Irshad Ahmad (bullet in right leg); Muhamad Ashraf (bullet in left leg); Zahoor Ahmad (superficial injury left leg); Zahid Ahmad (superficial injury right arm) and Mukhti Begum, an elderly lady with pellets in leg.
"Irshad and Ashraf were operated while the other three were discharged after treatment," doctors said.
A police official said, "Security force vehicle was passing through the area and it was stopped by protesters who tried to deflate its tyres. As the mob went violent the army had to open fire in which four persons received injuries. All the injured are stable."
After the incident violent clashes erupted in Wularhama, Sallar and many other Dachnipora villages of Pahalgam.
"The forces fired tear gas shells to disperse the protesters. Bijbehara–Pahlagam road remained closed for traffic throughout the day," locals said.
Soon after the incident the authorities suspended mobile internet service in Anantnag and neighboring Kulgam district.
In a statement, army's Srinagar based spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said: "A mob which had gathered near Walarom (Pahalgam) blocked the road when an army patrolling party was passing through the area. The party commander requested the mob to give way. However, some instigators baselessly alleged that a braid-chopper had mounted the army vehicle and started closing in on the army column. The party commander at this point warned the crowd and fired a few rounds in air to disperse them. In the meantime, company commander's party also arrived at the venue and made repeated appeals to the mob to keep away and let the army patrol to proceed. The mob started heavy stone-pelting at army vehicle and people started moving dangerously close to the troops. After company commander gave a final warning, the troops first fired in air, but when the crowd didn't relent and continued to throw stones causing injury to troops, he was left with no option but to open fire at them in self defence exercising utmost restraint to minimise casualty."
Rafi Mir demands probe:
General secretary of ruling PDP, Rafi Ahmad Mir, has strongly condemned the army action.
In a statement, Mir said, "Entire Sallar area and adjoining villages have always remained peaceful and even in peak of militancy there was no social disorder or any kind of unlawful activity. The army firing needs to be investigated as it has vitiated the peaceful atmosphere in the area."
"I appeal Chief Minister to personally look into the matter, as there has been outright breach of standard operating procedure and it was the mandate of local police to take action against any alleged offence."
"The state is already witnessing increased cases of braid chopping and where the civilian element is involved whether in form of demonstrations or protests, the forces need to be extra careful while handling them," Mir said.