Girl dies of heart attack; forces damage orchards, fruit in Shopian, attack villages in Sopore, fire teargas shells into mosque, damage transformers, vandalise homes; 45 more arrested in Kashmir
Srinagar: An 18-year-old girl of Gadhapora village in south Kashmir’s Shopian district died of heart attack while dozens others were injured when, as per the villagers, government troops resorted to massive teargas shelling and pellet firing to disperse people protesting against an attack by government forces on a pro-freedom rally on Monday.
A local resident told Kashmir Reader that the girl, identified as Khushboo Jan, daughter of Mohammad Hussain Bhat, was looking for her brother and father when forces opened fire at the rally being held at Chatwatan village–the alternative venue after authorities disallowed the scheduled pro-freedom rally at Vehil by imposing a strict curfew.
“The girl slipped while running away from the troops who were firing indiscriminately at people. She suffered a cardiac arrest on the spot. She was rushed to the public health centre at Harmain where the doctors said she was already dead due to cardiac arrest,” the local resident said.
According to locals, people had called for “Vehil Chalo” on Monday to hold a pro-freedom rally there, but after authorities imposed a curfew in Vehil, they held the rally at Chatwatan.
“Within hours people arranged a new venue at Chatwatan where thousands of people, including women, from dozens of Shopian villages participated,” a local said.
In the afternoon, the participants in the rally said, contingents of police, CRPF and soldiers of the army’s Rashtriya Rifles unit arrived at Chatawan and opened fire at the crowd.
The firing led to intense clashes between youths and troops at several villages in Shopian district, in which more than 80 civilians, including some women, sustained injuries.
An official source told Kashmir Reader that 37 injured were admitted to PHCs of Harmain and Vehil villages. Two injured, one with shell injuries in the head and the other with pellet injuries in eye, were referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment.
Locals alleged that due to heavy teargas shelling, a government high school building caught fire, which completely gutted the building. Police officials, however, denied the allegations and said “miscreants” set the school building on fire.
Incarcerated Hurriyat (G) spokesman Ayaz Akbar and JKLF leader Noor Mohammad Kalwal were booked under PSA and shifted to Kotbalwal jail in Jammu. JKLF chief Yasin Malik was shifted to Joint Interrogation Centre, Humhama on Monday.
Locals told Kashmir Reader over phone that CRPF men damaged apple orchards in Chatwatan and Vehil villages and broke the packed apple boxes which were kept on roadsides in the area.
An official handout issued here related to the Shopian incident said, “Some people have posted on social networking sites that a girl namely Khushboo D/O Mohd Hussain Bhat R/O Gaddapora Shopian died of heart attack after clashes between Police/Security forces and miscreants in Vehil Shopian. In this regard, the district administration Shopian has clarified that Gaddapora, the home of the said girl, is about 7 km away from Vehil, where the miscreants set on fire a school and also indulged in stone pelting. As per the hospital authorities the girl has died in all likelihood because of cardiac arrest. The death of the girl is in no way related to the incident that happened at Vehil. These posts are as such bereft of facts and are as such clarified.”
Earlier in the day, strict restrictions on people’s movement were imposed to block the public marches called for by the pro-freedom leadership. At several places people defied the restrictions and clashed with government troops. Several people were injured in these clashes.
The pro-freedom leadership had asked people of north Kashmir districts of Bandipora and Kupwara to march towards Baramulla, people of south Kashmir districts of Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag to march to Pulwama, and people of central Kashmir districts of Ganderbal and Budgam to march towards Srinagar on Monday.
All the main routes to these districts were sealed with razor wires and large contingents of troops stationed to prevent people from marching towards the protest venues.
As many as 30 people were injured when government forces fired into a protest in Kaimoh area of Kulgam district on Monday. Local health authorities said eight persons have suffered pellet injuries in eyes, three of them have been referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment. The protests erupted after the forces allegedly barged into houses and beat up the inmates. Several houses and vehicles were also damaged allegedly by the forces.
In Bugam village of the same district, six persons sustained injuries in forces’ action.
One woman was critically injured and several others injured when police went berserk at Panjipora and neighbouring villages of Sopore town. According to locals, policemen ransacked dozens of residential houses, a local mosque, and a power grid, damaging property worth lakhs.
Witnesses told Kashmir Reader that some two dozen vehicles of the police’s Special Operation Group (SOG) came into the village and went on a rampage. Locals said that the power grid in the village was fired upon and oil began leaking from the main transformer. The building in which the power department employees reside was also heavily damaged.
“They fired about 200-250 shells. There is so much suffocation in the mosque that it is impossible to offer prayers there tonight,” a local said. People said that carpets inside the mosque caught fire after forces lobbed several teargas shells into it.
“They started from the masjid and then went further into the village, smashing everything on their way,” another local said.
Government troops ransacked dozens of residential houses in Kremshore village in Budgam district during the previous night and also arrested four youths during the raid.
When people of Kremshore village on Monday held a protest against the raid and demanded release of the youths, troops lobbed teargas shells and fired pellets at them, injuring several persons.
Locals from Panzipora Tarzoo area of Sopore town alleged that government forces set 13 motorcycles on fire and completely damaged 8 other bikes and private vehicles. “A peaceful pro-freedom rally was going on in Panzipora ground at Tarzoo when government forces arrived and without any provocation fired pellets and tear-smoke shells on the participants. The forces set ablaze the tents and also set ablaze 13 motor-cycles. They damaged 8 other bikes and vehicles. While retreating from the area, the CRPF and police men fired upon four power transformers in Krankshivan area and damaged them,” a local said.
Reports said that people pelted stones on the government forces and in the ensuing clashes more than 15 persons were injured. When contacted, a police official refuted allegations and said that no motorcycle or vehicle was set ablaze. He said that protesters resorted to stone-pelting and one of the stone-pelters was arrested on the spot.
A protest at night was also held in Pampore town in which in-absentia funeral prayers were offered for all the civilians killed by government troops since July 8.
In Srinagar’s old-city areas and at many other places in the Valley, protests and clashes were reported between youths and government forces that left more than a dozen people injured. In Barzulla area of Srinagar, fierce clashes broke out that continued for several hours. The people who sustained injuries during the clashes were rushed to nearby health facilities.
According to police, barring stray incidents of stone-pelting in Sopore and Shopian, the situation in the Valley remained under control on Monday.
“Increased vehicular traffic and movement of people was observed on roads between various districts and towns of the valley, including Srinagar city,” the police statement said.
The statement said that restrictions under Section 144 CrPC remained in force in the Valley. “Curfew was imposed under the areas of some police stations in Srinagar city and Vehil area of Shopian district only,” the statement said.
“Continuing with the sustained drive against trouble mongers involved in disturbing the situation in the valley by placing obstructions on roads/lanes, damaging civilian vehicles and shops, police arrested 45 miscreants during past 24 hours,” the police informed.
The statement said that “a group of miscreants with intentions of creating disturbance assembled at village Vehil in District Shopian and set on fire a middle school building. Police and security force deployment reached the spot to deal with the situation where miscreants resorted to stone pelting. In order to disperse the miscreants little force was used which caused injures to two miscreants/stone pelters. In this incident some police/security personnel also got injured.”
—With Inputs from Bilal Habib and Basharat Ali