Allegations of the use of excessive force and the shooting of a student inside a school in Kashmir by security forces must be swiftly and impartially investigated and those responsible brought to justice, Amnesty International India said today.
Pertinently, on 27 May 2017, paramilitary personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) entered the campus of the Government Higher Secondary School in Mattan, Anantnag, after students began a protest following the killing of a leader of the Hizb ul Mujahideen armed group.
Eyewitnesses say that security forces fired in the air and some shot at the students. Sameer Ahmad, a 19-year-old class 12 student, was allegedly hit by a bullet in the head and is in critical condition in a hospital in Srinagar.
“Schools are supposed to be safe and peaceful spaces where respect for human rights is fostered. The use of excessive force against students inside their school is unacceptable, and strikes at their right to education,” said Zahoor Wani, Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International India.
The school in Mattan is located near a CRPF camp. The principal of the school, told Amnesty International India that teachers had tried to intervene when the students began shouting slogans against the government, drawing the attention of CRPF personnel. He said, “My staff went to the main entrance of the school and asked the CRPF troopers to go back to camps. We told them that we would control the situation in the school. A lady officer warned us that if even a single glass panel of their camp is broken in stone pelting, they would ‘kill them all’.”
A teacher at the school, claimed there were stone pelting from both the student protestors and CRPF. He said the protests gradually subsided, but when the students tried to leave the school through a back gate, CRPF personnel prevented them from leaving. He said, “We asked the girls to get into classrooms in a school block. However, some of the CRPF personnel came within the school premises and tried to break down the doors and barge into classrooms.”
A student at the school said, “The CRPF troopers fired twice in the air. They were shouting at the students, threatening us that they will teach us a lesson when we come out. It created more panic within the campus”.
Another student said, “We saw three CRPF troopers just outside the school wall. They fired a bullet that hit Sameer on the left side of his skull and he fell down. I dragged him back and my other classmates who were with me brought him back inside the school compound.”
Doctors at a hospital in Srinagar who are treating Sameer Ahmad said that his skull had been fractured. School authorities said that they eventually arranged for ambulances to take the students out of the school.
School authorities filed a complaint at the local police station in Mattan on the day of the incident. However, the police have not yet registered a First Information Report (FIR), which is the first step of a criminal investigation. The Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Anantnag, told Amnesty International India, “We will meet the principal and the students of the school and speak to them very soon.”
“The Jammu and Kashmir police have an obligation to register an FIR. They must immediately commence an independent and impartial criminal investigation into the incident,” said Zahoor Wani.
“Security forces should be protecting children and their right to education, not harming them and putting their lives at risk.”