Srinagar: A minor girl was killed and her brother injured critically on Monday after the army’s leftover shell exploded in Tosmaidan area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
The 9-year-old Simran Akhtar and her 5-year-old brother Fayaz Ahmad from Lassipora, Drang were playing in the fields when they fiddled with a littered shell which exploded leaving both of them in a pool of blood, local residents said.
When people rushed to the spot, Simran was already dead while Fayaz had received fatal injuries losing both of his limbs.
“Fayaz was rushed to the hospital where his condition is said to be critical,” the villagers said.
The village is said to be only 200 meters away from one of the military firing ranges in the area.
As the news spread, people from adjoining villages rushed to the spot and staged protests against the state government’s inaction in removing the army’s firing range from the area.
The villagers initially decided to not to bury Simran’s body till the authorities take any decision.
“But her body was so mutilated that we decided to bury her,” a local resident told Kashmir Reader.
The angry residents said that due to military drills, unexploded shells remain scattered in the area. Incidentally, when the police and civil authorities visited the village after the incident they also discovered some unexploded shells in the fields.
The Tosmaidan meadow, which is spread over 11, 200 hectares, was leased out to the army in 1965. The lease ended in April this year and was not extended by the state government after various civil society groups launched a forceful campaign against its extension. The army has stopped firing drills in the area after the land lease ended; however, they continue to occupy the land with authorities yet to decide about it.
According to official records, at least 65 people have been killed and more than 200 have been rendered disabled in the area due to exploding of litter shells since 1965.
Meanwhile, the Tosmaidan Bachao Front (TBF), which is spearheading the campaign against the extension of the lease to army, said they have no other option but to initiate an “uprising against illegal occupation if the lease cancellation order is not issued”.
“Government had an excuse of Model Code of Conduct because of which they did not issue the order of lease cancellation, but today we warn them to issue it in black and white before May 25 to avoid agitation which will snowball into a major controversy,” TBF spokesperson Farooq Ahmad said.
A spokesman of J&K RTI Movement, another groups campaigning against the lease extension, said, “Killing of a minor and critically injuring two minors by littered explosive is the worst example of brutality and barbarism.”
“Army has been given a license to kill and is on a mission of killing spree especially youth in order to sustain their illegal occupation of the meadow. They are continuing bloodbath to suppress the sentiment and they have crossed all the possible patience we could stand with,” it said.