Locals protest killing of youth by army in north Kashmir town
Locals protested on Wednesday the alleged killing of a youth by army in the frontier district of Bandipora, 55 km from Srinagar. While the locals accused the troops of killing Hilal Ahmed Dar, 20, in "cold blood" on Tuesday night, the army claimed that he was shot dead in an "encounter" in
Ashtengoo-Naar area of north Kashmir's Bandipora district.
The youths held a protest march on Bandipora roads carrying Dar's body on their shoulders and chanting pro-Islamic slogans. Local residents said that police took away the body to prevent escalation in violence.
Angry relatives and friends of Dar threw stones on policemen, who retaliated with teargas shelling and baton charge. Many youths and some policemen were injured in the clashes.
While separatists vehemently condemned the killing, north Kashmir remained tense throughout the day over the incident.
Family and neighbours of Dar said that he was "taken away by army personnel" after he had offered late evening prayers (tarawih) as mosques remain abuzz till late night owing to Ramadhan in the valley. Dar worked in a cement factory in Srinagar and had returned home owing to Ramadhan.
"He was a very pious man and a member of Tablighi Jamaat (a non-political Islamic group preaching social aspects of Islam). He had a flowing beard and that is why army men took him away and killed him for rewards,"
said a close friend and neighbour of Dar.
"He was even tortured before killing. He had torture marks all over his body,"
he said. A son of a mason, Dar has four sisters and two brothers.
Police officials said they believed it to be a case of mistaken identity while the army was adamant that the youth was killed in an encounter with militants in a forest area.
"We had laid an ambush at around 11.45pm after inputs about the presence of militants.The army retaliated after the ambush was fired upon, resulting in a brief encounter. In the morning, we recovered a body that was later identified as Hilal Ahmed Dar and an AK 47 rifle was seized. The body and the seized firearm have been handed over to police," said Srinagar-based army spokesman JS Brar.
The killing comes just days after Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah publicly expressed his belief that "peace was gradually taking roots and days of desperation are vanishing".
"We are investigating the claims of both the people as well as the army. It is too early to say anything. First, we want to ensure a proper burial of the body," minister of state for home, Nasir Aslam Wani, told Hindustan Times.
But angry residents were not ready to listen. "We know what happens after government sets up these enquiries. Who was punished for killing innocents in Machil fake encounter?What happened to the rape and murder case of Shopian women," said a resident of Bandipora, Fayaz Ahmad.
More than 110 people have been killed in anti-India uprisings in 2010 that began after a 17-year-old student was killed by police during a protest.