Police have used force to quell a demonstration in south Kashmir’s Shopian area after paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force personnel (CRPF) shot dead at least four youths, who locals say were civilians.
The incident, happening just hours ahead of the performance of a reputed conductor Zubin Mehta at a Germany-sponsored music concert in Shalimar Garden of summer capital Srinagar on Saturday, has raised tempers in the valley.
Calling it a ‘cold-blooded murder”, the locals took to the streets throwing rocks at government forces who retaliated by using batons and firing tear gas.
“All three of them were innocent civilians. They were riding a motorcycle when the CRPF men fired at them,” a local resident Jaziya (second name has not been carried on request) told The News Kick over the phone from Shopian.
One among the deceased, Touseef Bhat s/o Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, was a college student. “Everyone here knew him by the nickname ‘Moti’. He was riding a motorcycle to an examination centre to take a test,” Jaziya said.
Adil Ahmed, a 26-year-old student shot twice in the stomach, told AP from a hospital that there were no alleged militants, and that police opened fire unprovoked.
The police and other governmental agencies have, however, given conflicting versions of the shooting.
Inspector general of police, CRPF, Nalin Prabat, said the militants attacked a security post of the CRPF camp with automatic weapons and tried to run away from the spot on a motorcycle.
“The fired at the bunker of CRPF Battalion 14 in Shopian, but the alert jawans retaliated, killing all of them,” Prabat was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times. Some arms and ammunition have been recovered from them, he said.
Inspector General of Police, Abdul Gani Mir has called it a suicide attack, reported Freepress.
Earlier, CRPF had said that three militants were killed in the attack and two others were wounded.
Disputing the police account, a local resident alleged that it was a “staged gun battle”. “First they killed three bikers in cold blood. Then they caught another youth and killed him; planted weapons on him to pass him off as attacker,” Zameer Ahmad (name changed on request) alleged.
In another incident, nine people, including two civilians and seven policemen, have been injured in a grenade attack carried out by suspected militants in Pulwama, north of Shopian.