Bilal Ahmad, 14-year-old boy hit by pellets during Shopian gunfight on Tuesday. Photograph by Kaiser Andrabi

At around 3am on Tuesday, residents in Nadigaam village of Shopian district of South Kashmir heard gunshots. It was an exchange of fire between the trapped militants and the government forces, who had laid a siege around the house.

In a few hours long gun battle, four militants and a Para Commando were killed. But while the smoke and the dust was settling down, the village had erupted with massive clashes, with youth engaging into stone throwing with the government forces.

Over ten civilians were injured during the clashes, some of them claim not to be part of the protesting crowd. Four among those injured were shifted to SMHS hospital in Srinagar.

Three girls were hit by bullets and a minor boy with pellets in his eye. Simran Jan, 19, has suffered bullet injury in her abdomen while Meenu Jan and Rafia Jan have been hit by bullets in foot and leg respectively.

“I was standing on the road, far away there were clashes between the youth and the government forces,” said Simran Jan. “Suddenly, a bullet hit my abdomen and I fell down.”

Jan added that there was no stone throwing near the area where she was hit by a bullet.

A local, Mubashir Ahmad, accompanying the injured, added that amid the chaos in the area, he heard women screaming. “I found her (Simran) lying on the ground. I took her in the ambulance,” said Ahmad, who was in the hospital corridor waiting for Simran to be taken for CT Scans.

Ahmad doesn’t know her. But he, along with the girl’s aunt, was with Simran at the hospital. Her aunt, who was an eyewitness to the firing incident, said that the government forces fired live bullets and pellets at the protesters, who were throwing stones.

Waiting outside the emergency ward with his father, on second floor, 14-year-old Bilal Ahmad, a class 8 student, was hit by pellets in his left eye during the clashes with the government forces.

Abdul Rasheed, his father, said that the gunfight started at around 3am. “We heard the gunshots in before dawn,” said Rasheed. “At around 8am, youth started marching to the gunfight site. I heard screams of people a few meters away from my house.”

Following many others, his son Bilal too had walked to the site. After a few moments, clashes had erupted between the youth and the government forces. “Forces retaliated with bullets, pellets and tear gas shells,” Rasheed added.

It was only after that chaos, he received the news of his son being hit by pellets. “I don’t know if he can see now with this eye or he lost his eyesight.” A passerby walking by Bilal’s bed in the CT Scan room lamented, “Zulum, Zulum (Brutality).”

The doctors, who attended these injured, said, “Two girls who are hit by bullets in leg and foot have superficial wounds. While the other girl [Simran Jan] has injury in her upper abdomen but after proper examination this will get clear whether it is a bullet or a bunch of pellets.”

The killed militants of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit have been identified as Mehraj ud Din, son of Abdul Ahad Najar, a resident of Drawani; Abid Nazir Chopan, son of Nazir Ahmed Chopan, a resident of Padderpora and Anam ul haq, son of Mubarak Hussain, a resident of Motiju in south Kashmir and Basarat Ahmad Neegro, son of Abdul Rashid Negroo, a resident of Chotigam.

An army para-commando, HC Vijay of 23 Para, was also killed in the gunfight while three forces personnel were injured.

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