March 11: In the wake of increasing public support to militants and the new phenomenon wherein people have been openly coming to the support of gunmen during encounters with government forces, Army warned the people to refrain from protesting at the “sites of operation” failing which “it would be constrained to initiate an appropriate action.”
Sources in the Army said that the issue of protests by the people followed by violent clashes at the encounter sites was discussed at the highest level. “The opening of fire by the Army at Ashmuqam Anantnag recently in which two youth were injured was also discussed threadbare and some important directions were passed,” the sources said.
A statement issued from the office of General Officer Commanding (GoC) of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt General Satish Dua, said: “In case a crowd takes law in their hands and threatens life and property, security forces will be constrained to initiate an appropriate action to counter it.”
Pertinently, the protests by youth followed by violent clashes as seen in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, at Pampore during EDI encounter and the latest at Ashmuqam in Pahalgam are of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, proved to be a major challenge for the forces. A youth and a young woman died at Lelhaar area of Pulwama when police and Army fired on pro-militant protesters while two youth were seriously injured in the firing.
The statement while justifying the fire opened by the Army at Ashmuqam reads that a joint operation was launched by the Army and Police on March 8 based on specific information about presence of some militants in Magrey Mohalla.
“As the search operations were in progress, a large crowd of approximately 1000 people gathered at the site to disrupt the operations in clear violation of existing orders which had also been recently reiterated by the police,” the statement reads. “Soon, some unscrupulous, rogue elements from the crowd started resorting to heavy stone pelting and sloganeering. Despite this provocation, the forces exercised full restraint in trying to dissuade the crowd from interfering with their operations.”
However, the statement said, “not paying any heed, the crowd responded by intensified stone pelting, shouted inflammatory slogans and started coming closer to forces resulting in injury to more than a dozen personnel including a JCO of the Army and an ASI of Police.”
“The incident has been investigated and it is established that the forces were forced to open precautionary fire to prevent any further injury, loss or damage to personnel, weapons, equipment and other government property in which two persons resorting to stone pelting were injured,” the statement states.
Pertinently, people in large numbers assemble at the encounter sites in a bid to display support to militants despite a police advisory asking people to stay at least two kilometres away from the encounter sites. Breach of advisory has been already taken seriously by the police which has termed it as a “major concern.”