4 civilians killed in firing on J&K mob
15 February 2001
The Asian Age
Jammu: Four civilians were killed and 20 others injured when troops opened fire on a group of demonstrators who had blocked the Sopore-Kupwara road in protest against the alleged custody killing of a medical shop owner in Baramulla district on Thursday. [One person died on the spot while three others, including a mother and daughter, succumbed to injuries in hospital, official sources said, reports PTI. Seven people with serious head injuries were shifted to a Srinagar hospital, the sources added.] The Farooq Abdullah government swiftly ordered a judicial probe into the firing, which has triggered widespread protests in the area. Police and paramilitary reinforcements have been rushed to Sopore, 48 km from Srinagar, where angry crowds took to the streets and clashed with the police soon after the word spread about the deaths in the firing at Haigam. Considerable tension was reported from nearby towns and villages as well. According to witnesses, a huge demonstration was being held at Haigam to protest against the death in custody of Jaleel Ahmed Shah, a medical shop owner who, according to his family and neighbours, was arrested by the security forces on Tuesday evening and then tortured. The authorities claimed that Jaleel was a hardcore militant involved in a number of violent actions, including murders, and that he was currently the district commander of the Harkat-e-Jihad-e-Islami. They said that Jaleel had opened fire on a security patrol and that he had been killed in retaliatory firing. His relatives, however, said he was completely innocent and that he was only running a medical shop in the area. In Srinagar, the JKLF claimed that Jaleel was its vice-president for Baramulla district, and that he was among the party activists who had donated blood for Gujarat earthquake victims at a recently-organised blood donation camp in Srinagar. It also said that five years ago unidentified gunmen had murdered Jaleel’s father. A number of top JKLF activists, including Bashir Ahmed Butt and Javed Ahmed Mir, participated in Thursday’s demonstration at Haigam, but did not get caught up in the firing. Witnesses said that while the demonstration was on and the activists were talking to local police officers to press their demand for Jaleel’s body to be handed over to them for the last rites, an Army convoy reached the spot, and the soldiers asked the demonstrators squatting on the road to give the convoy way. The crowd, however, refused, and started raising pro-freedom slogans. This angered the soldiers and, according to a local news agency CNS, when the crowd allowed two private cars carrying journalists to proceed, the troops got provoked and opened fire. Police officials, however, said the mob had pelted the Army vehicles with stones, and that the soldiers had been forced to open fire in self-defence. There was no immediate word on the incident by the Army authorities. Among the killed civilians were a woman, Atiqa, and her young daughter Bilqees. The other two victims have been identified as Safdar Ali Dar and Manzoor Ahmed Parra. The judicial inquiry ordered by the state government will be conducted by Baramulla’s district and sessions judge, Mir Muhammad Yaqoob.