New Delhi,Ishfaq-ul-Hassan: Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's much-hyped "battle of ideas" was turned into "battle of bullets" on Saturday when security forces resorted to indiscriminate firing on the protesters, killing a class X student in Narbal area of central Kashmir.
This incident has fuelled fresh fears of another slump in tourism at a time when the industry was expecting a good inflow of visitors post-rains and floods in the Kashmir valley.
Eyewitnesses said Suhail Ahmad Sofi was shot dead by the forces when they opened indiscriminate fire on the crowd near Narbal Ghat on Saturday morning. Suhail, a student of local Boys School, was grievously injured and was shifted to hospital where he was declared brought dead.
"My brother was not part of any protests. He was helping our father in parking the vehicle at a safe place when a police contingent led by a local officer ordered his men to fire at him. There was no law and order problem before the police arrived. Even markets were open but the forces came and chased the local youth and fired at my brotherm" Ajaz Ahmad Sofi told dna.
Police have admitted that there was a violation of the standard operating procedure (SOP) and registered a case of murder and rioting under different sections of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC). Due to its special status, J&K has a separate penal code.
"We regret the unfortunate incident and extend our sympathies to the bereaved family. A preliminary inquiry indicates that the forces deployed have acted in violation of the SOP.
A case under section 302,147,149,341,427 RPC has been registered in police station Magam and further action would follow," said a police spokesman.
Elaborating, the spokesman noted that on Saturday morning there were reports of stone pelting on vehicles plying on Narbal-Gulmarg road and police along with paramilitary police was deployed to contain the situation.
"The deployed forces came under heavy pelting. To control the situation, they fired a few rounds resulting in injuries to a local youth Suhail Ahmad Sofi. Unfortunately the injured later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital", he said.
The killing is second in a row which has singed the Kashmir valley into the morass of another possible unrest. Anger was already brewing in Kashmir after one of the two alleged 'militants' killed by the army turned out to be the brother of another wanted ultra in Kamla forests of Tral in south Kashmir on April 14.
The incident has sent tourism industry into a tizzy as they fear further cancellations if the situation goes out of control. "We have suffered Rs 200 crore losses due to the cancellations in recent rains
and floods. More than 30 per cent bookings were cancelled. We are expecting a good inflow. Hope all goes well. Otherwise we would suffer again," Adil Khan, general secretary of Kashmir Hotel and Restaurants Association, told dna.
The killing has also shaken the mainstream parties with ruling People's Democratic Party feeling the maximum heat given their slogan of battle of ideas and healing touch policy. The party had cashed in on the human rights violations to come to power in Kashmir.
"It is a matter of grave concern that the forces personnel involved in the incident reportedly didn't follow SOP while dealing with the protesters. Now that FIR has been lodged in the tragic incident, I am
sure the investigation would be taken to logical conclusion and those responsible would be punished," said Mehbooba Mufti, PDP president.
National Conference working president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah however lashed out at PDP-led government for the killing. "We have seen Mufti say that he would be responsible for any HR violations and that he would not permit a violation of set standard procedures for the security and paramilitary forces. Both in the case of Tral youth's killing and now in Narbal – Mufti's words have proven to be hollow as the SOPs were brazenly violated," said Omar.
The killings had also given fresh ammunition to separatists led by Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani who has extended the hartal by another day to protest against the killing of Suhail. "All pro-freedom
leaders would sit on an hour long sit-in outside Partap Park Srinagar on Sunday to protest the killing. There will be complete shutdown on Sunday", said Geelani.
JKLF chairman Yasin Malik and Swami Agnivesh, who were sitting on 30 hunger strike agaisnt composite townships for pandits, tried to lead a march to Narbal. However a posse of police detained Malik and Agnivesh
and stopped them from marching to Tral.