Protests continue to rock north Kashmir
7 December 2002
Srinagar: Even as a magisterial probe has been ordered into the Friday''s firing incident in which a civilian was killed and two injured in Bangdara village in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir, strong protests continued for the second consecutive day demanding the arrest of an Army officer. Following strong demonstrations, the district authorities have ordered a magisterial probe to be conducted by the Additional Deputy Commissioner Latif Deva. The report has to be submitted within two days. An FIR under Section 302 has also been registered at the Sopore police station against 22 Rashtriya Rifles, official sources said. Some other measures have also been announced to pacify the angry residents, but these did not yield any result. Separatist and mainstream political leaders made a beeline for the village today.
Thousands of people blocked Srinagar-Baramulla national highway at Choora and demanded the arrest of Major Vivek Verma of 22 RR saying that ''we will not allow this to go the Highgam way''. They were raising ''pro-freedom and anti-security forces slogans''. Police had a tough time dealing with the demonstrators. Leaders Shabir Shah, Naeem Khan and Showkat Bakhshi visited the area and condemned the incident. ''These probes will not yield anything,'' Mr. Khan told the gathering.
Later, the PDP vice-president, Mehbooba Mufti, visited the village and extended sympathies to the family of the civilian, Mohammad Sultan Malik, who was killed in the firing besides the house which was blasted by RR troops. She assured the people that the probe would be taken to its logical conclusion and that the ''officer will be banished from Kashmir''. It was a ''sabotage'' to derail the peace process and the healing touch of the new Government. ''There are still some officers who do not want our programme to succeed,'' she said. A party from the 22 Rashtriya Rifles led by Major Verma raided the house of a civilian Ghulam Mohammad Malik in Bangdara on Thursday night. The house was allegedly blasted by the Army after declaring it a militant hide- out. This led to strong protest demonstrations against the Army for conducting the raid on the eve of Id-ul-Fitr. The residents alleged that the RR officer was hostile to the house owner after the latter lodged a complaint against him. As the procession of over 3000 angry residents was marching towards Baramulla, the same RR unit stopped it and fired at it after an altercation with the protesters. This resulted in injuries to three of whom one later died in hospital.
''Protesters to blame''
The Army, however, defended the raid, which, they said, was conducted on specific information about the house being used by militants. Some protesters tried to snatch a rifle from an Army personnel which resulted in injuries to some civilians, a defence spokesman said.