Officials say record of killings lost in mini-secretariat arson in 2016
SRINAGAR: The government says it has no documentary record available regarding the September 7, 2013, Gagran killings, in which four youths, including a non-local labourer, were shot dead by personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) after “mistaking them as militants”.
Deputy Commissioner, Shopian, Mohammad Aijaz told Kashmir Reader that the case records were lost in 2016 when people set the Shopian mini-secretariat ablaze during the uprising that erupted over the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani.
“Whatever we had (about the case), it was lost in the fire. Now we are trying to retrieve the data from secondary sources as it might be available at other departments or government agencies involved in the case, like the office of the local tehsildar,” Aijaz said. He said the devastating fire left huge numbers of official records fully damaged and that his office was now trying to retrieve their information from other sources.
The Shopian mini-secretariat fire occurred when, on September 4 last year, government forces tried to foil a pro-freedom congregation in Pinjoora and injured more than 130 participants by lobbing teargas and pellet shells.
The furious protesters later marched towards the mini-secretariat and set the building on fire. The building had been constructed in 2015 at a cost of Rs 36 crore.
The Gagran case relates to an incident of firing by the paramilitary CRPF on six youth riding two bikes in Gagran, Shopian, in south Kashmir on 7 September 2013. Four youths were killed in the firing and one was critically injured.
The incident happened hours before the controversial Zubin Mehta concert at the famed Mughal Garden of Shalimar. The CRPF, however, maintained that the youths were killed when they fired upon the CRPF personnel guarding the Gagran camp.
Locals as well as the victims’ families say that the youth were civilians and were killed in unprovoked firing by CRPF men. “My son was pulled off from the bike he was riding and was shot dead by CRPF guards near the camp,” said Gulam Muhammad Bhat, the father of 18-year-old Tawseef Ahmad Bhat, one among the four slain youths.
Bhat said it was proven even by government officials and political leaders that his son and the other three youths were innocent, and that the CRPF personnel had resorted to unprovoked firing that killed the four.
“Even current chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who was in the opposition then, visited us and assured us of speedy justice from government agencies. When the local police station was refusing to register an FIR and provide us a copy of the same, Mehbooba Mufti went into the police station and helped us in lodging a case against the persons involved,” Bhat said, ruing how Mufti, currently in power, had taken no further action.
Bhat said he wrote to Mufti a number of letters, as also to former CM Omar Abdullah and Governor NN Vohra, reminding them of the injustice committed on the families of the Gagran incident and seeking their help in securing justice.
“But none of them responded to my pleas. Then I approached Mehbooba Mufti in person and sought her help because she knew everything about the case. Though she assured me of help and also sought the case documents from me, but after four years, nothing has happened,” he said.
Following the killings, massive protests erupted in Shopian town and adjoining villages with protesters demanding action against the personnel involved and justice for the victim families. On September 11, 2013, another civilian fell to the government forces’ bullets after the troops resorted to firing to quell the protesters.
The mounting pressure forced then chief minister Omar Abdullah to order a judicial probe on October 5, 2013, to investigate the killings. Subsequently, a one-man commission headed by retired Justice ML Koul was set up to probe the killing of five persons by the CRPF in the two firing incidents of September 7 and 11.
The commission submitted its first report indicting the CRPF for the killing of innocents. While justifying the killing of Pakistani militant Abdullah Haroon, the commission had termed the other three slain youth as innocent and had demanded compensation to their families. It also sought stern action against the guilty CRPF troopers. “But the commission’s report was thrown into the dustbin by the government,” Bhat said.
Police station Gagran did not provide any details regarding the case. “It’s too old. I don’t know anything about it,” SHO, Gagran Police Station, Ghulam Jeelani told Kashmir Reader.
The CRPF spokesperson Rajesh Yadav told Kashmir Reader on Tuesday that he would seek details from concerned officials about the case and would provide details either that evening or on Wednesday. But when Kashmir Reader contacted Yadav on Wednesday, he aborted the call.