Acting promptly over the killing of protesting civilians in Handwara area of Kashmir, the Army today ordered an inquiry into the death of the two youths killed in the firing on Tuesday and assured early completion of the enquiry.
Lieutenant General D.S.Hooda, who heads the Udhampur-based Northern Command, informed Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of the decision following her request to be briefed on the situation. He assured her that action will be taken after the investigation is complete, an official statement said.
“The incident is highly regrettable. We assure early completion of the enquiry, which has been already ordered,” said Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda, who today visited Handwara, along with Chinar Corps Commander Lt Gen Satish Dua. He said that the Army has ordered an inquiry into the killing of civilians in a firing incident in Handwara.
“Army regrets the loss of lives and has ordered an inquiry into the circumstance leading to the incident. Anyone found guilty will be severely dealt with,” Hooda said and added that the Army has also offered to take care of the expenses for hospital care and subsequent rehabilitation of those injured in the incident. Meanwhile, the toll in the incident rose to four on Wednesday when another youth was killed after allegedly being hit by a tear smoke shell in Drugmulla area of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, taking the death toll to four from Tuesday evening.
According to reports, a youth identified as Jahangir Ahmad Wani son of Gulam Din Wani of Nagri Drugmulla after being hit by tear smoke shell was shifted to PHC hospital Drugmullah for treatment where he succumbed to his injuries.
Clashes erupted between youth and forces since the wee hours of this morning in Handwara town against the killings, with police disbursed to tear smoke shells in air to disperse the protests.
Pertinently, the two youths were killed in the incident in Handwara were identified as Mohammad Iqbal and Nayeem Qadir Bhat, while as after a 50-year-old woman, identified as Raja Begum succumbed to the injuries she sustained the previous day. According to a police official, Raja Begum was shot in the head while working in the fields near her home.
However, on her maiden visit to Srinagar after taking over the chief ministerial position, Mufti said such incidents have a “negative impact” on the state’s efforts towards ensuring peace, adding that the security personnel involved in the shooting in the state’s Kupwara district will be meted out with exemplary punishment.
Mufti condoled the deaths and urged security forces to exercise maximum restraint and adhere to the standing operating procedure while dealing with protests. She also met with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who assured her that an inquiry will be conducted and that the victims’ families will be compensated. During the meeting with Defence Minister, the Chief Minister called for a time-bound enquiry into the incident so that those responsible for the deaths are handed exemplary punishment. This, she said, will act as a deterrent against such incidents in future.
Mehbooba Mufti said such incidents shake the confidence of the people and adversely impact the efforts of the State government in consolidating peace dividends. “The loss of lives of the innocent civilians cannot be compensated by whatsoever means,” CM said and urged the Defence Minister to announce adequate compensation to the families of the victims, who have suffered such an irreparable loss. The agitation began after a girl, whose age has not been reported, was allegedly molested by army personnel.
However, in a video, officially released by Army, the victim girl denied the reports of molestation and accused the youth of manhandling her. A police spokesperson said security forces retaliated after a crowd tried to ransack the Army bunker and set it on fire. A criminal case has been registered at Handwara Police Station.