Srinagar: The government effectively blamed the protesters and mourners for the brute force used by the government forces that resulted in the killing of 19 unarmed civilians in the past 24 hours.
Government spokesman Naeem Akhtar told a press conference that the forces were “compelled” to shoot at the protesters.
“We will investigate whether disproportionate force was used but in most of the cases the mobs burnt police stations and tried to overrun camps. In majority of the places, sipahi (soldiers) and law enforcing agencies have been compelled to use their weapons,” Akhtar said.
He was briefing media after chief minister Mehbooba Mufti held a cabinet meeting following widespread protests and clashes that erupted after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on Friday.
So far, 21 unarmed civilians have been shot dead during protests and scores of others maimed with bullet and pellet injuries.
Akhtar said “as a society, we should not take protests to a level that a person carrying weapon will be forced to use it”.
Naeem said the government expressed concern over the loss of lives of youth and forces have been directed to maintain restraint. The director general of police and the chief secretary briefed the cabinet.
“The public property can be compensated but the loss of lives ruins a clan. And it was decided that people lives and property would be safeguarded,” he added.
According to him, the forces should maintain restraint and attempt that there is “no collateral damage”.
When five civilians were killed in protests after the alleged molestation of a girl in Handwara, Mehbooba had asked forces to exercise restraint and follow Standard Operation Procedure. On Saturday also she repeated the same advice, but five people were killed hours after an official spokesman released her statement to the press.
Naeem also said “some instigators” hurl petrol bombs at forces during protests and flee but small kids and youth become “victims of reaction”. He asked parents to keep an eye on their children.
He appealed stakeholders, including Hurriyat leaders, whom the government has either put in prison or detained in their own homes, to help “in resorting peace and save lives of people in the state”.
“The government appeals political forces including mainstream National Conference, Congress or CPI or Hurriyat leaders to help in resorting peace and save lives of people in the state,” he added.