The family of a civilian killed in north Kashmir’s Sopore today morning, when militants attacked a deployment of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers, have alleged that he was killed by the government forces personnel and not militants.
The civilian, Bashir Ahmad Khan, 65, and a CRPF trooper were killed while three CRPF personnel were injured after militants attacked the personnel deployed in the Model Town area of Sopore in the Baramulla district. Pictures of the killed civilian and his three-year-old grandson went viral on social media and evoked a sense of outrage over the incident.
An unnamed police officer identified only as a “senior police officer” told local news agency Global News Agency (GNS) that militants attacked CRPF patrolling party in Model town of Sopore by “firing indiscriminately”.
In this incident five people including four CRPF personnel were injured. “We lost one CRPF personnel and one civilian. The CRPF personnel injured [are being] evacuated to 92 base hospital,” Director General of Police Dilbag Singh told GNS.
The pictures of the killed civilian lying on the ground and his grandson standing nearby prompted intense outrage on social media. Emotional and angry reactions from ordinary Kashmiris as well as politicians across both at home and outside.
However, while the police and politicians have blamed the militants for the killing, videos of family members claiming that the elderly man was killed by CRPF personnel have also gone viral on social media.
In one video, the wife of the killed civilian has alleged that government forces placed the child on the civilian’s body. “They killed him and then kept his three-year-old grandson on his body,” the wife of the killed man can be heard saying in video, as she is consoled by mourning women at her house. “The child’s clothes are soaked with his grandpa’s blood. He was not a militant. He was a petty employee.”
At his residence in Srinagar, the daughter of the killed man told The Kashmir Walla that her father was brought down from the car and shot dead. “Kill the one who shot dead my father, imagine the plight of my three-year-old son, what he must be going through? They didn’t even take into consideration that a minor was with him,” the daughter asks.
In another video, a man at the killed civilian’s residence in Srinagar, presumed to be his son, is heard saying that “CRPF responded to the firing by militants and killed him, he was dragged down from the car and shot him dead”.
Senior Superintendent of Police, Sopore, Javaid Iqbal denied the allegations leveled by the family. “These reports of CRPF personnel dragging him from the vehicle and shooting him outside are absolutely incorrect,” Mr. Iqbal told The Kashmir Walla.
Mr. Iqbal said that two militants – belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba – were behind the attack. “The [civilian] vehicle was caught in between the firing and initial reports suggest that he got down from the vehicle along with the child to escape and got shot outside [the vehicle],” he said.
On the release of photographs of the child next to his grandfather’s body people have expressed outraged but no one confirms who clicked the photographs. Mr. Iqbal, the SSP, said, “We are investigating the incident. We don’t know who took the photo of the child, there were a lot of people and chaos.”
The Inspector General of Police, Vijay Kumar, while briefing journalists, said that there was no public movement at the time of the firing. “Going to the operation area with mobiles is wrong,” said Mr. Kumar. “I will ensure police teams going for the operation don’t carry mobiles along as that may pose threat to their lives.”
Yet, Mr. Kumar urged eye-witness, if any, to come forward and the police “will accordingly act”. He also termed the family’s claims as “totally baseless” and made “under militant threats”, according to local news agency Kashmir News Observer (KNO).
Mr. Kumar claimed that there was no retaliation from the government forces’ and that “the militants had left behind one full magazine and another one from which 30 bullets were used in the premises of a local mosque”.
Mr. Kumar was quoted by KNO to say that: “I want to ask them whether they were present at the site of the incident. Did they see themselves who fired? They circulated video messages blaming the forces of killing their father from Srinagar, which is totally baseless.”