Srinagar: Seven persons, including a pregnant woman, were killed and two others critically injured Wednesday after an army’s recovery truck rammed into a taxicab near Hokersar wetland on the outskirts of Srinagar.
The accident occurred at Umar Abad, HMT on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway around 10:50 am, when a taxicab (JK01P-1464) carrying passengers from Srinagar to Sopore was hit by army’s recovery van (No. 01P013854W) that was coming from the opposite direction.
Three persons, including the cab driver Ghulam Hassan Bhat, of Dangerpora, Baramulla, were killed on the spot in the head on collision, while six others suffered critical injuries, eyewitnesses told Kashmir Reader.
After hectic efforts, the locals managed to pull out the critically wounded passengers from the wreckage of the cab before removing them to the nearby private hospital. However, the doctors there referred them to Srinagar hospitals for specialized treatment. Three of the six injured died on way to the hospital, another died at the SMHS Hospital, while two others are being treated at the SKIMS Soura.
“One injured was brought to the hospital for treatment. However, before we could treat him, he succumbed to his injuries,” Medical Superintendent, SMHS Hospital, Dr Nazir Choudhary, told Kashmir Reader.
The slain commuters have been identified as Mohammed Rafiq Untoo, of Dugliteng, Baramulla; Zareefa of Pattan; Ghulam Nabi Dar, of Krankshivan Colony, Sopore; Naseer Ahmad Mir, of Mum Kak, Sopore; Peer Mohammed Syed and Mohammad Ramzan Mir of Ashpeer, Sopore.
Zareefa was eight months pregnant. Her husband Ashiq Hussain and another man Sheikh Zaid are battling for life at the hospital. The deceased cab driver is survived by his wife Zahida and three children, including two girls.
Minutes after the deadly accident, scores of men, women and children converged at the spot and held strong anti-army and anti-India demonstrations. They angry people chanting slogans like “We want freedom,” also reportedly grabbed driver of the army truck Havaldar Krishan Singh and thrashed him. They also smashed windows and bumper of the pickup van belonging to the army’s 51 Rashtriya Rifles. Some youth also attempted to set the army crane ablaze.
“An army contingent immediately reached the spot and rescued their driver from the protesters. The soldiers also fired many shots in the air to scare away the youth and to prevent them from torching their vehicle,” Riyaz Ahmad Wani, an eyewitness, told Kashmir Reader.
He said the aerial firing by army infuriated the protesters, leading to violent clashes. Police also reached the spot and burst dozens of teargas canisters to disperse the stone pelting youth.
At least four people, including two policemen, suffered injuries in the clashes that continued intermittently. Two of the injured people were discharged after first aid at a private hospital.
“A policeman was brought to the hospital for treatment. He might have been discharged by now,” Dr Choudhary of the SMHS Hospital said.
Senior police officials, including Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Srinagar, Amit Kumar, who reached the spot to assess the situation, had to face ire of a woman, an eyewitness to the accident.
“I saw how the speeding truck came from the other end and hit the cab. Shoot the truck driver in front of us,” the woman told SSP. “Why are you pleading before us? Are rules meant only for us, not for them,” she said, while pointing towards the soldiers. The SSP tried to pacify her by saying that the army driver was already in police custody.
Meanwhile, a spontaneous shutdown was observed in Sopore, the native town of most of the accident victims, when the news spread. Shopkeepers suspended their activities to mourn the demise of the six locals, including an expecting mother. Later in the day, youth took to streets at the Main Chowk Sopore and fought pitched battles with the forces.
“The forces lobbed teargas canisters to disperse the stone pelting youth. The clashes continued for several hours. However, no one was hurt,” eyewitnesses said.
Meanwhile, army has “regretted” the loss of lives in the accident and extended condolence to the families.
“The accident is under investigation and all possible assistance will be provided to the police in their inquiry,” an army spokesman said in a statement.
A police spokesperson in a handout said a case (FIR No. 139/2014 under section 279, 337, 304 A RPC) has been registered in police station Parimpora.
“The vehicle has been seized and the army driver has been arrested,” the spokesman added.—With inputs from Mushtaq Ahmed in Baramulla