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April 3, 2000
7 killed, 15 injured in Anantnag police firing
Mukhtar Ahmed in Srinagar
At least seven protesting Kashmiri villagers were killed and 15 others injured, three of them seriously, when police and paramilitary forces opened fire on demonstrators at Barakpora, 3km from Anantnag in south Kashmir.
An indefinite curfew was imposed this afternoon in the entire Anantnag district and troops were deployed with shoot-at-sight orders as tension mounted and a few thousand residents took to the streets to protest against the killings.
"We had no choice but to impose indefinite curfew," Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Khurshid Ahmed Ganai told rediff.com on telephone before leaving for Anantnag.
The army staged a flag march in the town following the incident. Witnesses said police vehicles with sirens wailing were making the rounds of Anantnag asking residents to return to their homes.
"Everyone here is fleeing the town and the security forces and police have been deployed in strength in the whole area," said one resident who was contacted by telephone.
A senior police officer said curfew restrictions are being implemented strictly to avoid further trouble.
Minister of State for Home Mushtaq Ahmed Lone and the Director General of Police Gurbachan Jagat flew to Anantnag to take stock of the situation.
Nearly 3,000 Muslim villagers this afternoon came out on the streets and took out a procession at Achabal in southern Anantnag. They were protesting against the recent disappearances in Anantnag and demanding the bodies of five 'civilians' who were killed by security forces as the alleged killers of 35 Sikhs at Chatti Singhpora village.
The state government had said that the five "foreign militants" killed at Pathribal were involved in the Sikh messacre. Senior Superintendent of Police (Anantnag) Farooq Ahmed Khan himself led the operation. But the residents have been protesting for the past week, charging that the five were innocent civilians who were taken into custody after the Sikh massacre and killed in cold blood. Their bodies were charred beyond recognition.
Sources said that shouting slogans, the residents proceeded towards Anantnag town. As the procession reached the Special Operations Group camp of the police at Barakpora, they began pelting stones at the heavily guarded camp. The SOG and Central Reserve Police Force personnel in the camp opened fire on the demonstrators, killing seven on the spot and wounding five others. Police described the condition of three as very critical. They were all rushed to hospital.
The firing triggered panic among the processionists who ran helter-skelter. But as news of the firing spread, people from adjoining villages came on to the streets. Another big procession began making its way to Anantnag, but senior officers persuaded them to return home.
The Joint Action Committee that is speaheading the ongoing agitation in Anantnag and has been demanding the return of the bodies of the five 'foreign militants' has given a call for an indefinite strike in Anantnag. It has also demanded a high-level inquiry and return of the bodies that were buried by the security forces.
The sessions judge, Anantnag, has already appointed a deputy superintendent of police as inquiry officer and directed him to submit a detailed report to the court on April 6.
Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had announced in the state assembly on Thursday that DGP Jagat and Additional DGP (intelligence) Rajinder Tickoo have rushed to the village for a detailed inquiry and that he would place their detailed report in the House on Friday. But Jagat denied having been asked to inquire into the Pathribal killings.
Despite the mounting tension in Anantnag, the chief minister or his colleagues did not visit the district. Nor did any senior police officer visit Anantnag to defuse the tension. Residents say 10 civilians went missing after the Chatti Singhpora massacre.
This morning police arrested prominent separatist politician and president of the Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Freedom Party Shabir Ahmad Shah when he tried to stage a sit-in at Lal Chowk in Anantnag. Shah was arrested with dozens of his supporters demanding exhumation of the five bodies.
Leaders of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, including acting chairman Moulvi Umar Farooq, were not allowed by the administration to proceed to Anantnag today. The APHC chief strongly condemned the killings and alleged that "the central government had unleashed a reign of terror in the valley after the recent visit of Bill Clinton".
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