''Uniformed men'' set ablaze J-K boy
29 July 2001
The Indian Express
MUZAMIL JALEEL & TARIQ BHAT
Srinagar: THERE are many theories of what happened and who did it. But one fact cannot be changed: After three days of painful struggle, a 15-year- old boy died today of burn injuries. Bilal Ahmad Ganai had been surrounded, while walking on the road, by ''a group of men in uniform'' who sprinkled ''gun powder'' on his body and then set it on fire. He could not, he said, establish the identity of the uniformed men. ''I was shocked. I am not a militant. I have no involvement and I never expected this to happen,'' Bilal said. ''The men stopped me and asked for my identity card. I immediately complied but then they sprinkled something all over my body. It was perhaps gun powder,'' he told The Indian Express just a day before his death. ''One of them lit a match stick and I went up in flames.'' Bilal said that he failed to extinguish the flames even though he rolled on the ground. I felt as if I was in a frying pan. I could smell my flesh burning. You can,t imagine, the pain was unbearable.'' Bilal was barely able to talk yesterday, his neck had burn wounds all over and his body was covered in bandage. Doctors said he had been brought to the hospital with 85 per cent burns. A spokesman of the Army''s Kilo Force division, whose units are located in the area, vehemently denied their involvement. ''Our men don?t carry gunpowder nor petrol,'' he said. ''More than 80 per cent of the foreign militants wear Army fatigues. How will we know who these men were, who did this to the boy. I have personally checked with each of our units; there was not a single patrol out at that particular time,'' he said. Local Station House Officer Khursheed Ahmad also denies the Army?s involvement. ''There is no evidence which will corroborate that the men who set Bilal on fire were Armymen,'' he said. ''Why will they do it to him. He has no record of being directly or indirectly involved with militancy.'' An FIR No 192 stands registered at police station Sopore and investigations have been initiated. As news of Bilal''s death reached Sopore today, hundreds of villagers from across the apple town crowded the streets today demonstrating against the killing. Security was tightened and the township was suddenly griped in tension when All Party Hurriyat Conference chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and National Front leader Nayeem Khan appeared at the scene. The protesters were raising slogans against security forces and were demanding that accused be brought to justice. Shopkeepers too downed shutters. The actual provocation that led to this incident is, however, shrouded in mystery. ''There are a dozen stories making rounds. Though the people blame the security forces because the perpetrators were in uniform, there are other versions too. Somebody even told us that Bilal?s affair with a girl was the provocation,'' a police officer from Sopore told The Indian Express.