Handwara on boil over ‘staged encounter’

Handwara on boil over ‘staged encounter’
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Killed college student was not involved in any militancy related activity, police confirm

Baramulla: Carpenter Bashir Ahmad Mir was on Thursday refusing to go to the funeral of his eldest son, Shahid Ahmad, a third-year college student whose body was brought to police station Wilgam in Kupwara district by men of the army. They said it was of a militant they had killed in a gunfight. The body was brought on Wednesday afternoon. A day before, on Tuesday evening, Bashir of Daril village in Handwara had come to Wilgam police station to file a missing report of his son, Shahid.
“On Monday evening Shahid went to Tarathpora market to buy some commodities from the shop of one Gulam Rasool, but did not come back home. After some time I went to the market, where some people told me that they saw Shahid in the market and some people told me that they saw army men picking him up and bundling him into an army vehicle. On Tuesday I shared the picture of Shahid on social media, but to no result. On the same day, in the evening, I went to police station Wilgam where I filled a missing report,” Bashir told Kashmir Reader.
“On Wednesday afternoon someone from the police station came to ask me to visit the police station. He said a dead body had been brought and police believe that it is of Shahid. I along with some people reached the police station where was shocked to find the body of Shahid. From that time I don’t know what happened, who took the body. I am sure my son was picked up by army and then killed in a staged encounter,” Bashir told Kashmir Reader on Thursday morning.
Even as Bashir was refusing to go to his son’s funeral, thousands of people from Daril, Tarathpora and nearby villages had gathered at the local Eid-Gah graveyard to offer funeral prayers. Some of them took Bashir there. He stood in the last line of the mourners. When people saw him standing there, they brought him forward to stand in the first row. The local Imam who led the prayers began conducting the religious rituals. Bashir watched all of it in silence. So did his younger son, Amir Bashir, a Class 4 student, was stood among the kids. The four sisters of Shahid and his mother, Gulshada, were at home, joined by hundreds of women in their wailing.
On Wednesday afternoon, as soon as Shahid’s body was identified, thousands of people from villages in Tarathpora area had reached Daril Payeen to protest against the killing. They had refused to bury the body and were out on the streets, demanding an inquiry and an FIR against the army soldiers who had passed off the killing as an encounter. Shouting anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans, the thousands of people demanded to see the FIR filed against the army troopers.
On Thursday morning, Kupwara Deputy Commissioner Khalid Jahangir personally came to assure that an FIR will be registered against the army.
The people were not ready to relent but elders intervened and the body was taken for burial at the local graveyard in Daril Payeen, where the local Imam, Moulana Parvaiz Ahmad, led the funeral prayers.
The situation turned ugly soon afterwards, when some of the people who attended the funeral began clashing with the police. Locals said that the police fired dozens of teargas shells and live ammunition in the air to chase away the protesters, but not before they had set ablaze the official vehicle of DC Kupwara and also damaged two other escort vehicles.
The encounter in which the army claimed to have killed Shahid began on Tuesday morning, when the army and police SOG (special operations group) cordoned off the Hangikote forest area in Handwara, “after receiving inputs of presence of a group of militants”. In the afternoon, a Srinagar-based army officer posted on social media that “one terrorist has been killed in the encounter and operation is in progress”. Soon, Indian news channels were flashing the news that two terrorists had been killed in Handwara and some others were trapped.
After the protests began on Wednesday afternoon, the district administration in both Kupwara and Baramulla announced the closure of all colleges and higher secondary schools. The colleges and higher secondary schools remained closed on Thursday.
DC Kupwara Khalid Jahangir admitted that police records show that Shahid was not involved in any “anti-national” activity. He said a time-bound inquiry would be conducted into his killing. “Yesterday, when we heard that a dead body was recovered from the forests, we contacted the local police. The SHO Wilgam confirmed to me that the slain was a local boy, Shahid Bashir Mir. Later the SSP also confirmed that the boy was not involved in any militancy-related activity. We have just ordered an inquiry and we will conclude it very soon. Meanwhile, I have ordered a magisterial enquiry, the report of which will be submitted within one week,” the DC Kupwara told reporters on Thursday in Handwara.
Bashir, meanwhile, was thinking of all the efforts he had made to educate Shahid. He was in college and Bashir hoped that he would find a government job soon. The eldest daughter of Bashir is married. His other three daughters are in Class 12, 10 and 8, respectively. His younger son, Amir Bashir, is just a kid.
Bashir said he had no energy to go to his son’s funeral. “But somehow I reached Eid-Gah and then to the graveyard where we buried the body. I am still thinking why and how they took my son into the forests and then killed him. His body was riddled with bullets. It was luck that his face was not damaged, or who could have identified him?” he said.

 

 

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