Srinagar: A 20-year-old youth was killed in Babapora village of South Kashmir’s Shopian district near a paramilitary checkpost close to a camp on Sunday following which the chorus for a probe into the incident is rising in the Valley, including by regional political parties.
The killing of Shahid Ahmad Rather, a resident of Arwani village, coincides with the first visit of Union home minister Amit Shah since the abrogation of Article 370. Shah’s three-day tour was aimed to bolster the security grid and provide reassurance amid heightened tension in Kashmir over increase in targeted militant attacks that have claimed 11 civilian lives.
Shahid’s killing, however, is second instance of a civilian killed near a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) checkpoint. Even as the Jammu and Kashmir police claimed that the youth was killed in cross-firing after the CRPF naka came under militant attack, the locals and family of Shahid believe he was shot dead by security forces in “cold-blood”.
A picture of Shahid’s body lying close to a vehicle with blood stains was later widely circulated in social media as condemnations poured in against the conduct of armed forces. A pack of apples also lay scattered in front of Shahid’s lifeless body. According to his brother, Zubair Ahmed, Shahid was working in apple orchards as a daily wager for harvesting apples.
“I was calling my brother frantically before I heard he was martyred. I called him 15 to 20 times as I was scared. I couldn’t believe when someone told that my brother has been martyred,” Zubair told NewsClick.
Zubair refuses to believe the police version that his brother’s death was a result of crossfire.
“Only two fires were shot one of which killed my brother,” he adds.
Others in his family and locality also believe it was a ‘target’ killing.
In a statement, the police claimed that at about 10:30 am police in Shopian received information about an attack by militants upon an area domination patrol party of 178 Bn of the CRPF at Babapora.
“Preliminary investigation including statements of eye-witnesses revealed that terrorists fired upon the ADP party of CRPF which was retaliated by the ADP party. During the cross firing, service rifle (AK-47) of one of a ADP personnel, who was at the rear end was snatched by one of the associate of terrorists,” the police said.
The police added that the associate was challenged and asked to stop, however, he kept running towards the direction from where ADP party was being fired and received bullet injuries in the “cross firing.”
A case vide FIR No.130/2021 was later registered in police station Zainapora and investigation has been initiated.
Earlier in October, another civilian Parvaiz Ahmad was shot inside his car allegedly by CRPF personnel near a checkpoint in Anantnag.
Fear and uncertainty has mounted as the region is witnessing a surge in violence in which as many as 13 civilians, 15 militants and 10 armed forces personnel so far in this month.
The killing of Shahid, who had left education years back to support his family, was widely condemned by regional political parties who called for an inquiry into the incident.
The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference said that the “unabated loss of human lives in Kashmir is worrisome and heart-rending.”
"Yet another life has been sniffed off; yet another mother will have to live with lifelong pain and agony. Sympathies and condolences seem hollow to console the bereaved household, whose heart throb has been snatched away," a statement from NC read.
CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami urged the authorities to probe the incident to fix responsibility. “The circumstances in which the civilian was shot dead needs to be probed. Losing precious human life is unfortunate and mere condemnation of such incidents isn’t enough,” he said.
Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari also demanded a “time bound probe” into the circumstances. “Killing of a civilian in this manner is extremely gruesome and mere condemnation of such incidents won’t work. The incident must be investigated in a transparent manner so that the responsibility for loss of precious life of a civilian is fixed,” Bukhari said.