Girl dies of heart attack; 45 more held; Mosque shelled

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Day 74: Defiance, clashes, surprise raids, arrests in IHK

Srinagar—An 18-year-old girl of Gadhapora village in south Kashmir’s Shopian district died of heart attack while dozens others were injured when, as per the villagers, government troops resorted to massive teargas shelling and pellet firing to disperse people protesting against an attack by government forces on a pro-freedom rally on Tuesday.
A local resident told media that the girl, identified as Khushboo Jan, daughter of Mohammad Hussain Bhat, was looking for her brother and father when forces opened fire at the rally being held at Chatwatan village–the alternative venue after authorities disallowed the scheduled pro-freedom rally at Vehil by imposing a strict curfew.
“The girl slipped while running away from the troops who were firing indiscriminately at people. She suffered a cardiac arrest on the spot. She was rushed to the public health centre at Harmain where the doctors said she was already dead due to cardiac arrest,” the local resident said.
According to locals, people had called for “Vehil Chalo” on Monday to hold a pro-freedom rally there, but after authorities imposed a curfew in Vehil, they held the rally at Chatwatan.
“Within hours people arranged a new venue at Chatwatan where thousands of people, including women, from dozens of Shopian villages participated,” a local said.
In the afternoon, the participants in the rally said, contingents of police, CRPF and soldiers of the army’s Rashtriya Rifles unit arrived at Chatawan and opened fire at the crowd.
The firing led to intense clashes between youths and troops at several villages in Shopian district, in which more than 80 civilians, including some women, sustained injuries.
An official source told Kashmir Reader that 37 injured were admitted to PHCs of Harmain and Vehil villages. Two injured, one with shell injuries in the head and the other with pellet injuries in eye, were referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment.
Locals alleged that due to heavy teargas shelling, a government high school building caught fire, which completely gutted the building. Police officials, however, denied the allegations and said “miscreants” set the school building on fire.
Incarcerated Hurriyat (G) spokesman Ayaz Akbar and JKLF leader Noor Mohammad Kalwal were booked under PSA and shifted to Kotbalwal jail in Jammu. JKLF chief Yasin Malik was shifted to Joint Interrogation Centre, Humhama on Monday.
Locals told Kashmir Reader over phone that CRPF men damaged apple orchards in Chatwatan and Vehil villages and broke the packed apple boxes which were kept on roadsides in the area.
An official handout issued here related to the Shopian incident said, “Some people have posted on social networking sites that a girl namely Khushboo D/O Mohd Hussain Bhat R/O Gaddapora Shopian died of heart attack after clashes between Police/Security forces and miscreants in Vehil Shopian. In this regard, the district administration Shopian has clarified that Gaddapora, the home of the said girl, is about 7 km away from Vehil, where the miscreants set on fire a school and also indulged in stone pelting. As per the hospital authorities the girl has died in all likelihood because of cardiac arrest. The death of the girl is in no way related to the incident that happened at Vehil. These posts are as such bereft of facts and are as such clarified.”
Earlier in the day, strict restrictions on people’s movement were imposed to block the public marches called for by the pro-freedom leadership. At several places people defied the restrictions and clashed with government troops. Several people were injured in these clashes.
The pro-freedom leadership had asked people of north Kashmir districts of Bandipora and Kupwara to march towards Baramulla, people of south Kashmir districts of Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag to march to Pulwama, and people of central Kashmir districts of Ganderbal and Budgam to march towards Srinagar on Monday. All the main routes to these districts were sealed with razor wires and large contingents of troops stationed to prevent people from marching towards the protest venues.
As many as 30 people were injured when government forces fired into a protest in Kaimoh area of Kulgam district on Monday. Local health authorities said eight persons have suffered pellet injuries in eyes, three of them have been referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment. The protests erupted after the forces allegedly barged into houses and beat up the inmates. Several houses and vehicles were also damaged allegedly by the forces.
In Bugam village of the same district, six persons sustained injuries in forces’ action.—KR