Student killed in Army’s firing, another student critical; Toll 5
Turbulence spreads to more parts of Kupwara; Undeclared curfew continues in Srinagar, Kupwara, Handwara; Crowds attack Army camps, Police; Geelani calls for another shutdown; Exams deferred
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, April 15: On the fourth consecutive day of turbulence in Kashmir valley on Friday, over half of the summer capital of Srinagar and all major towns of Kupwara district reeled under undeclared curfew over the four civilian deaths in the firing of Police and Army on Tuesday and Wednesday in Handwara even as the death toll rose to five with one more fatal casualty and yet another student was battling for life at a hospital.
Few of the Police officials responded to phone calls from media as Internet services though GPRS on prepaid mobile phones remained frozen in Kupwara and parts of Srinagar. Official sources told STATE TIMES that immediately after the Friday congregational prayers at the mosques, crowds attacked a roadside camp of Rashtriya Rifles 47th battalion at Nutnusa, on Srinagar-Sopore-Kupwara road. Eyewitnesses said that the camp was subjected to intense stone pelting and the crowds shouted pro-Azadi, anti-forces and anti-India slogans.
In retaliation, troops opened fire. A 19-year-old student, Arif Ahmad Dar of Awoora Kupwara, staying for studies with his sister married in Nutnusa, sustained critical injuries. He was rushed to hospital but he succumbed to injuries. With his death, total of five civilians---four students in age group of 19-22 years and a 55-year-old woman---have got killed in the firing of Police and Army in Handwara-Kupwara belt of northern Kashmir in the last four days.
When Arif’s body was being carried to his village for funeral rites, crowds launched another intense attack on the same camp of RR 47 Bn. However, this time troops forced the protesters disperse with only tear smoke and firing in the air. Eyewitnesses said that the crowds caused extensive damage to some barracks.
In the evening, crowds attacked Police and security forces at Kupwara bypass. Two more students, namely Shaukat Ahmad Ganai of Kalaroos and Sajjad Ahmad Bhat of Kunan Poshpora, sustained injuries. Both were rushed to Srinagar and admitted in SMHS Hospital. Doctors treating them maintained that Sajjad was out of danger but Shaukat was “extremely critical”. CMO Kupwara reportedly told local journalists that Shaukat had been” injured in the occipital region of his head, probably due to fall in a stampede”.
Two persons, who had sustained gunshot wounds in the Army firing at Nutnusa, were under treatment at Bone and Joint Hospital, Barzullah. Doctors described them as stable.
Official sources said that demonstrators clashed with Police and security forces at over 20 spots in downtown Srinagar besides over a dozen places in Kupwara district. Though there was no call for shutdown from separatists, life remained paralysed across the valley. Areas falling under seven Police Stations in Srinagar besides the townships of Kupwara, Handwara, Langate, Drugmulla reeled under undeclared curfew. A senior official said that as many as 92 Police personnel and over 50 civilians sustained injuries in the sporadic clashes in the last two days.
In the evening on Friday, a press release issued on the day’s situation from Zonal Police headquarters of Kashmir said: “There were massive violent protests in Handwara and Kupwara areas today. The mobs attacked the police and security force establishments and deployments. More than 40 police men and security force men were injured. Despite severe provocations the deployment on ground exercised maximum restraint. However at one place Natnusa in Kupwara the mob tried to enter the forces camp and the Army had to resort to firing in which one person lost his life.
“The incidents of pelting were reported from Mir Mohalla, Hyhama Chowk, Kralpora in Kupwara, Kralgund, Magam in Handwara and Cement Bridge, Baramulla as well”. It appealed the public to “maintain calm and not to resort to violence and attack security force and police establishments”.
While as officials said that similar “restrictions” would remain in force in downtown Srinagar and Kupwara district on Saturday, separatists organisations, including both factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF, called for another shutdown across the Valley. Authorities announced cancelations of the examinations scheduled for Saturday by the University of Kashmir and State Board of School Education.