The Legitimate Desk
Once again Kashmir got drenched in blood of civilians who were killed by forces near an encounter in Sirnoo village located on the outskirts of Pulwama town. Seven civilians among whom four were students were killed when forces personnel who were engaged in encounter opened fire on the protestors.
The protestors were trying to reach the spot where joint team of army and police were engaged in an encounter with three militants. When army and police ended the cordon, they killed three militants and seven civilians. One army soldier was also killed in the encounter. Around 40 civilians were also injured in the firing. Locals blamed army and police for unprovoked firing which locals said could have been avoided had troops on ground shown patience. This year around 50 civilians were killed and more of the civilians especially in their teens were killed near encounter sites in South Kashmir.
The killing of civilians sparked protests across Kashmir and separatists called for mourning and three day shutdown. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in tweet soon after the killing of civilians asked for mourning and protests for three days and said it was a massacre. “Government of India who control us has decided to kill Kashmiri’s through its armed forces. People will march towards Badami Bagh Army cantonment on Monday to ask government of India to kill all of us at one time rather than killing us daily,” he tweeted.
Medical Superintendent Pulwama hospital Abdul Rashid Parra said most of the injured patients had bullet injuries in their head, chest and arms. Most of the eyewitness acknowledges that protestors were pelting stones and targeted forces who were busy in operation, however they say that by using aerial firing the situation could have been avoided.
“Now killing civilians near encounter spots has become a new norm. Had there been any accountability the things would have been different,” said a local from Pulwama.
Locals say that army and police had been visiting the village from past few days. On Saturday morning when they again came to village outskirts, the militants who were hiding in a cave type structure close to village stream fired upon the forces triggering an encounter.
In the encounter one soldier and three militants were killed. Among the militant one was soldier turned militant Zahoor Ahmad Thokar who had joined militants along with his service rifle. Thokar was famous commander in the area and when villagers came to know about his killing they rushed towards the encounter site along with people from other villages. The protestors’ pelted stones on the soldiers and in retaliation forces personnel killed seven civilians and left dozens injured at two places at Sirnoo villages. The killing left entire Valley in pall of gloom and triggered series of protests.
The civilians killed were identified as Shahbaz Ali of Monghama village, Suhail Ahmad of Bellow, Liyaqat Ahmad of Parigam, Amir Ahmad Palla of Ashminder and Abid Hussain Lone of Kareemabad. Lone is survived by an Indonesian wife and their three-month-old baby. He had married and had returned to his village along with his wife last year. Locals said he was working in his orchard when he was hit by a bullet. One of the killed civilian was class VIII student who was preparing to join another class.
Former J&K chief minister and NC vice president Omar Abdullah said it was a badly executed encounter. ‘’What a horrible day!…. 6 civilians killed and numerous more injured, many critically. Any way you look at it this was a badly executed encounter. Protests around encounter sites are now the norm not the exception. Why are we unable to learn how to handle them better?”
PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said that no country could win a war by killing its own people. “No country can win a war by killing its own people. I strongly condemn these killings, and once again appeal for efforts, to stop this blood bath,’’ she tweeted.
Peoples Conference chairman and an ally of BJP, Sajjad Lone said that heads should roll. ‘’The preparedness of security forces would in the Pulwama context be the ability to make the distinction between combatants and non combatants. If u end up killing 7 civilians in order to kill 3 militants. It is time for heads to roll. We can’t afford a state of impunity,’’ Lone tweeted.
J-K Governor Satya Pal Malik appoints Divisional Commissioner as enquiry officer to investigate the killing of seven civilians at Sirnoo village.
Governor chaired a meeting attended by senior officers of the State and of Central Police Forces, to review of Law and Order and other security related issues at Raj Bhavan in winter capital Jammu.
Governor Malik directed Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir to inquire the incident that happened in Pulwama today and suggest precautions to minimise civilian casualties in anti-militancy operations.
Governor expressed grief over the loss of lives during the anti militancy operation in Sirnoo area of Pulwama district today, in which 7 civilians died after post- operation clashes.
Governor directed the security forces to minimize the collateral damage during anti-terror operations and recommended people-friendly measures during such operations, asking the security forces and the administration to address the post operations complications.
“After reviewing the prevailing security situation and arising challenges Governor emphasized the crucial importance of maintaining sustained close watch on the ground situation, and appreciated the sustained real time coordination and synergy between the Security Forces and the Civil Administration,” official spokesman said.
Governor Malik also appealed to the people to keep a distance from areas where anti-militancy operations are in progress.
Governor also directed security forces to give time for people to evacuate from an area during an anti-militancy operation as per the laid down Standard Operating Procedure.