Kupwara: The 70-year-old man who was shot dead by army troopers in Kupwara’s Panzgam village on Thursday afternoon was the father of an Indian Army soldier.
Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, a tailor, was trying to stop an angry group of youth from marching to an army camp to demand the bodies of two militants killed in the morning. Bhat and other village elders were walking in the front row of the protesters to prevent any clashes with government forces when army soldiers opened fire at them.
Bhat’s family said that his son, Javed, was on his way home from West Bengal where he is posted with his battalion. “Our elder brother is in the Indian Army. He was on duty for the safety of Indian people in West Bengal when the army soldiers shot dead our father,” said Tariq, Bhat’s second son.
Three militants stormed an army base camp near the village in a pre-dawn strike on Thursday, killing three army soldiers including an officer and injuring five others. Two of the fidayeen died in the attack, while the third managed to escape, army said.
Villagers said that on Thursday youth gathered in large numbers near the public health centre in Panzgam on Kupwara-Tangdar road and started marching towards the army camp, refusing to listen to Bhat and other village elders. The youth shouted slogans against the army and in favour of the slain militants. It was at this point that army soldiers opened fire and killed Bhat. “He was in the front row, trying to be a shield between the army and the protesters when he received a bullet on his chest,” an eyewitness said.
Eyewitnesses further said that the situation could have turned bloodier if a police officer present on the spot had not “pushed the barrel of an army soldier’s gun towards the air”.
Local people took Bhat to a nearby hospital. He was later shifted to Kralpora hospital, where doctors declared him dead. His body was taken to his home and buried at his ancestral graveyard. A large number of people from Panzgam, Kralpora, Dardpora, Tinpora and other adjoining villages participated in his nimaz-e-janazah (funeral prayers).
Bhat is survived by three sons and two daughters. “I was not at home when my father was killed. I heard that army soldiers had shot my father. We don’t want any compensation; we want to know why army soldiers shot dead our father when he was not involved in any stone-pelting or protest. He was trying to stop protesters from moving towards the camp,” Tariq said.