Shopian: A civilian was killed and another critically injured at the funeral of slain militant Arshid Ahmad Khan in Ganowpora village, after a group of militants appeared to offer gun salutes to Arshid and then the army, claiming to have come under fire from militants hiding in nearby orchards, opened fire on the people gathered at the funeral ground.
Eyewitnesses told Kashmir Reader that while the funeral of Arshid was underway, three gunshots were heard coming from the side of nearby orchards. “Scores of youths rushed towards the spot but they saw the army there. We all returned back to the funeral ground without any confrontation with army,” a local villager who was present at the funeral ground told Kashmir Reader.
Locals added that ten minutes after the gunshots were heard, a group of militants appeared at the funeral ground and fired three rounds of gun salute to Arshid. “The militants left the ground within a couple of minutes but were intercepted by people who wanted to hug them. At that point, the militants again fired three gunshots to disperse the crowd and make their passage. Soon after, the army came to the funeral ground and started indiscriminate firing on people, in which two youths were injured by bullets,” another local, wishing not to be named, told Kashmir Reader.
Srinagar-based army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said of the Ganowpora incident, “At about 1500 hours today, army troops came under fire from terrorists near Ganowpora orchards. Army troops immediately retaliated. In the cross-fire, one civilian unfortunately got injured, who later succumbed to the injury.”
Locals said that the army firing at the funeral ground led to a stampede-like situation with everyone running for safety. “Many persons were injured because they ran into trees and barbed wire fences around the orchards,” a local said.
The killed civilian, Bilal Ahmad Khan, was brought dead at Sub-District Hospital (SDH) Shopian with a bullet injury in his chest. Doctors at Primary Health Centre (PHC) Brethipora said that another person with bullet injury was brought there and he was referred to a Srinagar hospital.
Bilal Ahmad Khan, son of Ali Muhammed Khan, was a resident of Poju in Keller area. He was 23 years old. He and his elder brother were running a bread shop at their native village. He has left behind two sisters studying in Class 6 and 4, respectively, and three brothers and his parents.
Bilal’s father is suffering from multiple ailments in his heart and back. Villagers said that the family is poor and Bilal was their lone bread-earner. The family owns two kanals of land but is under heavy debt, villagers said.