Suhail Ahmed Sofi’s killing is the first such case since the People’s Democratic Party-BJP government came to power last month after PDP emerged as the single largest party in assembly polls on the back of promises to end impunity of security forces and rights abuses.
Late Saturday, hours after authorities had ordered a probe into the firing, two cops were arrested in a bid to placate anger over the killing. The big concern was the situation could spin out of control like it did in 2010 summer stone-pelting agitation in which 120 people were killed in firings on demonstrators.
The unprecedented arrests came after police acknowledged standard operating procedure (SOP) for crowd control was violated when protesters in Magam were fired upon and booked the cops for murder.
Relatives mourn next to the body of the teenage student Suhail Ahmad Sofi, who died in a clash between protesters and J&K police during a daylong protest strike in Narbal, north of Srinagar April 18, 2015. (Reuters Photo)
“Preliminary inquiry conducted in the matter indicates that the forces deployed acted in violation of the laid down SOP,” a police statement said and regretted “the unfortunate incident”.
Protests in Magam coincided with a bandh called versus separatist Masarat Alam Bhat’s arrest a day earlier for hoisiting a Pakistani flag at a rally and alleged extra-judicial killings of two youth in south Kashmir’s Tral.
The statement said police and paramilitary troopers were rushed there after stone-throwing protests were reported along the Srinagar-Gulmarg road.
Policemen take cover behind an armoured vehicle, shields and trees as protesters hurl rocks and bricks in Narbal, some 15km north of Srinagar, on April 18, 2015. (TOI photo by Bilal Bahadur)
“To control the situation, they fired few rounds resulting in injuries to a local youth namely Suhail Ahmed Sofi of Narbal in Magam, who later succumbed in the hospital,” it said.
The boy’s uncle claimed his nephew was first detained before he was shot point-blank in presence of dozens of other protesters.
“The police officer took my nephew aside and then shot him point-blank as we watched,” a news agency quoted the boy’s uncle, Tariq Ahmed Sofi, as saying.
Police promised to investigate the uncle’s allegations. “If that is true it will come out,” inspector general of police Javid Gillani told the agency.
“We will speak to him (the boy’s uncle) and investigate his version of the boy’s killing.”
Later in the day, Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yaseen Malik and social activist Swami Agnivesh were detained when they tried to lead a march to Narbal to protest Sofi’s killing.
Agnivesh had earlier joined Malik for 30-hour hunger strike versus the proposal to create separate settlements for displaced Kashmiri Pandits.
“We will not allow these colonies at any cost. We have to live together and die together,” he said.
Malik said the Pandits should talk to the people of Kashmir rather than the government for their return.
He condemned Sofi’s killing, saying such atrocities could push youth on militant path. “We declared unilateral ceasefire and after that people of Kashmir had shown a transition from violent movement to non-violent democratic movement….If this kind of attitude continues ….are you not pushing the boys on a militant path?” he asked.
Agnivesh said Kashmir is known for its secular character and Kashmiriyat and the government should leave the issue of the return of the migrant Pandits to the people.
Authorities had earlier put other top separatists, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, under house arrest to prevent them from leading protests during the bandh that paralyzed the Valley on Saturday.
Shops, businesses and schools remained closed in response to the strike, which Geelani had called to protest Tral killings and “unjustified and inhuman” arrests of separatists including Bhat.
In Budgam, Bhat was produced before a court and remanded in seven-day police custody a day after he was arrested for Pakistani flag at the rally he had organized to welcome Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani upon his return from Delhi.
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) separately endorsed Geelani’s bandh call while condemning Bhat’s arrest and Geelani’s detention.
“Laskhar condemns the arrest of separatist leaders and we fully support the strike call of Syed Ali Geelani. It is appealed to the people of Kashmir to participate in the strike call,” LeT spokesman Abdullah Ghaznavi was quoted telling a local news agency.