Exactly nine days after Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in his remarks on Kashmir said that – “Na goli se, na gaali se, Kashmir ki samasya suljhegi gale lagaane se (Kashmir’s problems can be solved only with embracing the people of Kashmir, not with bullets or abuses), the army killed a 23 year old youth in a cold blooded murder.
The youth identified as Shahid Bashir Mir was studying in 3rd year at Handwara Degree College was allegedly ‘abducted’ from his house at Daril village, 17 kilometers from Handwara town and dubbed him as foreign militant.
Army initially claimed that in an operation its troops killed an unidentified militant at Hafrada forests of Kupwara district. On Tuesday soon after Army and Police launched an operation in the forests of Hafrada, the Army tweeted that “One terrorist was killed in Hafrada forests.’’
However, when body was brought inside the camp and doctors were asked to conduct post mortem, they realized the person killed is not a foreigner but had features of local youth. Meanwhile, the family of College student had already lodged a missing report at the Vilgam police station, five kilometers away from the home of student.
The police called the family to check whether the body lying at the 6 RR camp had any resemblance with their missing son. And when the family and relatives reached the camp, they identified the mutilated body of their son. The police officer present at the camp threatened the people who had gone to collect the body for being relatives of a militant and warned them to bury the body in the dead of night as the officer didn’t want any law and order trouble in the area.
At 8 pm, on Tuesday, the family brought body of the student home. As the news spread that militant killed in the Hafarada forests turned to be a civilian hundreds of villagers gathered in the house of Mir and took body to nearby Tarathpora Chowk and sat on a sit-in. Independent legislator, engineer Rashid also tried to reach the village however, he was detained by the police five kilometers ahead of the village at Dolipora.
“It is a murder and Army has killed an innocent civilian and now they are trying to dub him foreign militant,’’ he told the reporters soon after he was detained. Rashid who is a legislator of neighboring assembly constituency, Langate held army responsible for killing innocent civilians.
The police have also handed a non involvement certificate to the family in which it has been mentioned that Shahid was not involved in any kind of subversive or criminal activity and had no links with militancy.
To prove innocence of this young college student, family is now showing Non- involvement certificate issued by the police and attested by Deputy Commissioner Kupwara to everyone who visit them for condolence.
“My son was killed in a cold blood. He was kidnapped outside his house when he had left his house to buy a bottle of juice. I want justice. The death of my son has left our family in jeopardy. Who is going to look after my family comprising three daughters and a young son,’’ says Mir who is a carpenter by profession.
“I left no stone unturned to provide education to my son. I had hopes that after completion of his education, my son will look after the family. Alas, now I have to work again in the old age.’’ He blamed that his educated son was abducted by the army from the road and then taken into forests for fake encounter.
Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara, Jahangir Mir said that college student was not involved in any militancy related activity. “We came to know about this incident yesterday and during initial investigation the police have found that Shahid was not involved in any subversive or criminal activity.’’
Mir said that magisterial probe has been ordered and the report will be submitted within a week’s time. Mir also visited the village and when he failed to give FIR copy of the incident to the family, villagers set two vehicles of his cavalcade on fire. Later, DC was rescued by the police after they used batons and fired tear smoke shells on the protestors.
Uncle of the college student said that Shahid was picked by men who were in Army Gypsy on Monday. “Though we searched him everywhere but couldn’t trace him. His body was badly mutilated by the forces.”
His cousin Javeed said that he had dream to qualify Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) examination. “Two students have already qualified KAS from our village and my cousin wanted to become like them. But his life was cut short.’’
On its part Army is now saying that the college student was killed in a cross fire as the army has launched an operation in the dense forests of Hafarada.
After PM’s speech many political analysts believed that his words will be translated into actions on the ground and civilians would be spared and army will adopt healing touch policy with the civilians while maintaining tough posture against militants. However, the killing of innocent civilians still continues. The dangerous part is that student was arrested and then killed in a fake encounter in the forests.
This is not the first time when soldiers or policemen were found involved in the fake encounters or killing of civilians especially young people for sake of promotions or money. The killing of three civilians of north Kashmir’s Nadihal village by the army on the Line of Control snowballed into major controversy and sparked series of protests in 2010 across valley.
Even today there is no end to these innocent killings especially student community. From past one week all the educational institutions like colleges and Higher Secondary Schools are closed as the authorities fear widespread protests. The locals say that since police and army officials involved in fake killings are not being punished that prompts others to go for kill to earn medals and money. However, time has come when government should give serious thought to it and shouldn’t ignore the killings of civilians. Otherwise, Valley can plunge into an agitation mode. Though every time with the killings of civilians government announces probe however seldom the reports have been made public resulting that majority of people have lost faith on the probes. Amid these civilian killings – the remarks that Kashmiri’s needed to be hugged losses its value and credibility.
Nobody is against the army or police for launching operations against those who are armed, however, arresting an innocent civilian and then dubbing him as a militant is a big crime. And when student of Handwara College was killed, the first demand the family put that police should provide them with NOC as credibility that their educated son was killed without any fault.
Ever since the PDP-BJP coalition government took over, the Valley has witnessed troublesome days and protests one after another. From past few months, the army has launched operation ‘All Out’ against the militants after their number of both locals and foreigners swelled, especially after the killing of Burhan Wani last year.
However, while launching the operation in the villages against the militants named as Cordon and Search Operation (CASO), over a dozen civilians were also killed that triggered protests in last few months. The civilians were killed close to encounter sites as they tried to help the militants to break the cordon during gun fights. Though Army and Police had warned civilians to stay away from the encounter sites, however, at many places people didn’t give any attention to these warnings and civilians tried to break the cordon. The killing of civilians attracted backlash against the government and the forces and severely denting the efforts of government to ensure calm in fragile valley.
The time has come when army and police should maintain extra restraint to save the civilian lives because every time when a civilian gets killed, it is sufficient to trigger series of protests. At many times police have exercised extra restraint, however, civilian killings are still taking place that needs to be stopped at any cost and it brings bad name to the civilian government besides to the forces deployed on ground. The killing of young student has once again highlighted how delicate situation is in Kashmir and despite tall claims of the government people are not feeling safe. The government should also use all its influence on the security apparatus whether Army, Police, CRPF or BSF to safeguard lives of civilians.