SRINAGAR: At least six persons were killed and nearly 30 injured after paramilitary personnel fired at people protesting alleged desecration outside their camp in remote Gool area of Ramban district Thursday morning.
Residents alleged that personnel from Border Security Force (BSF) fired indiscriminately on people protesting against paramilitary forces objection to late night Ramazan prayers (Taraweeh) by Muslim community in this remote area.
76 BSF Battalion is deployed for the security of an under construction railway line in the area where tension had built up ominously since Wednesday night when some BSF guards broke open into a mosque where night prayers were on and beat up the worshippers. They also allegedly tore up the holy Qura’an.
A local who did not want to be named said BSF personnel asked some people who had assembled in the mosque to desist from late-night prayers, offered by Muslims during the holy month.
“Following heated exchanges, the people moved away. The brother of the mosque preacher, Abdul Latif, however, started offering prayers at an abandoned bridge nearby. There was an altercation between Latif and BSF personnel, who allegedly thrashed him.”
As the news spread thousands of protesters came out of their homes protesting against the incident and BSF diktat.
However local officials led by Tehsildar of the area pacified the protestors with assurance that they can hold protest early in the morning against the incident,” an injured being treated at SMHS Hospital said.
Immediately after dawn prayers, reports said, large number of people raising Islamic slogans assembled at Shaddi Gool and marched towards BSF camp. BSF guards fired few rounds at the marching crowds resulting in the injuries to several protesters.
As the news spread crowd swelled to thousands and at around 10 a.m they again marched towards the BSF camp.
Deputy Commissioner and SP Ramban along with large contingent of police were present, eyewitnesses said.
Reports said that Incharge Chowki officer Sangaldan Muhammad Afzal, who was present their, first opened fire resulting in the instant death of one Manzoor Ahmed Shan, a lecturer at local Higher Secondary School.
Eyewitnesses alleged that Chowki officer fired upon Manzoor from close range. “It was only after the death of Manzoor at the hands of police officer that people turned violent and resorted to stone pelting.
"Furious mobs then hurled stones at the BSF Camp and in response guards there opened indiscriminate firing upon us,” an eyewitness said.
Qari Shabir, a local cleric, said the BSF personnel opened fire on people in presence of DC and SP.
Reports said that in an open violation of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) BSF personnel fired directly upon the protestors, killing at least five persons and leaving scores of protestors injured.
Many of those injured are said to be in critical condition. An unconfirmed report said one of the injured, not yet identified, succumbed to his injuries while being airlifted to a Jammu hospital.
The BSF did not immediately comment on the firing. A high security alert was sounded for the entire state even as the injured were airlifted to Government Medical College, Jammu.
Minister of State for Home Sajjad Kichloo however gave a different version of the events saying a youth was roaming suspiciously while the BSF deployed for security of a railway project was patrolling the area.
According to him the youth was detained for questioning leading to protests.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has ordered a probe into the firing incident.
State government meanwhile ordered attachment of DC Ramban Shyam Vinod Meena with GAD and transfered Mohammad Hussain Malik, Director Estates posting him as new Deputy Commissioner Ramban.
PROTESTS SPREAD: Furious at the firing and resultant deaths protestors marched towards old DC office Ramban and ransacked it. Protestors smashed the window panes of several govt vehicles and set an Army wagon on fire.
Soon after the incident high tension gripped highway towns of Gool, Ramban, Chanderkote and Batote in the district.
Protesters blocked the strategic Jammu-Srinagar national highway at some places. Thousands of people came on the highway at different places raising pro-freedom slogans.
At several places people offered prayers on the highway and did not allow traffic to ply.
Clashes were reported from different parts of South Kashmir as well as in Srinagar against the killing of six people in Ramban District.
Bar Association staged a protest against the incident and took out a march in Lal Chowk.
Srinagar city observed a spontaneous shutdown after the news from Gool spread here.
Stone pelting incidents were reported from Kulgam, Dooru, Verinag, Gojwara, Nowhata and Maisuma.
At Maisuma one policeman was injured after he was hit by a stone on his head. He was identified as Selection Grade Abdul Aziz (322) from 3rd IRP Battalion.
In Srinagar, religious and separatist leaders have called for a state wide shutdown for three days to protest the Gool incident.
LIST OF DEAD
Manzoor Ahmed Shan (Lecturer) R/O Gool
Javid Ahmed Manhas (student) R/O Bimdasa, Gool.
Farooq Ahmed Beigh R/O Saibala Gool
Abdul Lateef Bakarwal R/O Jamlan Dharm
Nisar Ahmad Mirza
Muhammad Amin Batu
Some of the Injured
Mohammad Amin, Mohammad Rafiq Zargar, Qamar-u-Din Najar, Abdul Rashid Mir, Nazir Ahmed Chandeel, Mohammad Iqbal Kutay, Nayeem Ahmed Kumhar, Tariq Hussain, Irfan Ahmed Geeray, Mohammad Farid Geeray, Bashir Ahmed Geeray, Zubair Salam Wani, Master Masood and Abdul Rashid Bhat.