By MM Parvez/Muhammad Taskeen
Dharam (Gool), J & K, India, (Greater Kashmir): Four persons, including a government lecturer and an Imam, were killed and around 42 others injured when paramilitary Border Security Force men resorted to indiscriminate firing twice on a protest demonstration in Dharam, Gool, area of Jammu division’s Ramban district Thursday afternoon. However the locals alleged that one person was killed in police firing.
Though officials said that only four persons were killed, unofficial reports suggested that two out of the 42 injured, who were shifted to hospital after receiving bullet injuries, have also succumbed to their injuries.
As per the local residents, there were two incidents of firing by the forces on protesters. In the first incident, one person was killed and six injured while three others were killed in the second round of indiscriminate firing outside a BSF camp.
Locals alleged the “massacre” was carried out in presence of Deputy Commissioner Ramban, Shyam Vinod Meena, and Superintendent of Police.
The deceased have been identified as local Imam Abdul Lateef son of Nizam-ud-Din, Javeed Ahmed son of Abdul Sattar R/o Gui Batash Gool, Farooq Ahmed Beg son of Ghulam Ahmed Beg of Salbia Gool and Manzoor Ahmed Shan S/o Abdul Rehman Shan of Gool.
The situation remained tense as the protesters were pressing for the arrest of the accused BSF and police personnel.
Initially protests erupted in this mountainous village, about 41 kilometers from district headquarters of Ramban, late Wednesday night but the situation went out of control Thursday morning when around 10,000 people gathered from adjoining areas and marched towards a camp established by 76 Bn of BSF for protection of ongoing railway construction work.
Giving details, local residents said that there was a heated argument between some BSF personnel and the Imam of newly constructed Masjid, established inside a Madrasa near Dharam, yesterday morning. “As the Masjid is newly constructed the Imam was offering Isha prayer when late in the evening at least four BSF personnel entered the Masjid,” Shamas Din, a local resident told Greater Kashmir. He added that the Imam, Abdul Lateef son of Abdul Rasheed Mian, asked the BSF men not to enter the Masjid premises with shoes, which infuriated the security personnel and they gave him severe thrashing.
As per the villagers, a Tipper driver who was passing through the area, saw the Imam being thrashed. He rushed to the village and informed the people. “As the people reached the spot they noticed some pages of Holy Qur’an laying scattered in the area,” villagers claimed adding that the people staged massive protest demonstrations around midnight.
The BSF men fired some rounds in air.
Thursday morning, hundreds of people from adjoining villages also rushed to the spot and staged a protest demonstration against the alleged desecration of Holy Qur’an and the Masjid.
The protesters marched up to the BSF camp demanding action against the personnel involved in the sacrilege. “As the people were shouting anti-BSF slogans and resorted to stone pelting, they were allegedly fired upon from inside the camp, leading to bullet injuries to around six persons,” Ghulam Ahmed, another local resident said.
He said the protesters were initially dispersed after the “unprovoked firing” but the situation took an ugly turn when the news about the BSF firing spread in the area. More than 10,000 people from all over Gool and Ramban rushed to the village and joined the protesters, who again assembled outside the BSF camp demanding action against the culprit personnel.
Deputy Commissioner Ramban, SSP and SDPO along with a contingent of police and CRPF also reached the spot and tried to pacify the protesters. “Unfortunately, the DC instead of handling the situation told the villagers that the district administration will look into the matter after Eid, which further infuriated the locals”, eyewitnesses said adding, “Suddenly some rounds were fired and a youth, Manzoor Ahmed Shan, was found in pool of blood.”
The villagers rushed Manzoor to a local hospital where he was declared as brought dead – flaring more anger among the protesters.
Eyewitnesses said that the villagers again resorted to sloganeering and stone pelting outside the BSF camp and once again several rounds were fired from within the camp leading to on the spot killing of the Imam and two others and injury to scores of others.
Villagers refused to take the bodies from the spot, while the injured were shifted to Ramban and Gool hospitals, from where around 16 were airlifted to Jammu Medical College and Hospital and two others were referred to SKIMS, Srinagar.
Some locals said the first round was fired by a police official. “The police personnel is a local resident and had a personal grudge with deceased Manzoor Ahmed,” a resident of Dharam said.
Minister of State for Home Sajad Ahmed Kichloo and Director General of Police Ashok Prashad along with other civil and police officers also rushed to the spot in the afternoon to take stock of the situation.
However, none of the ministers or the police officers could meet the protesters, who refused to lift dharna outside the BSF camp till late Thursday evening.
It was learnt that most of the officials from the police and district administration had taken refuge within the BSF camp. More than four police personnel also faced wrath of the angry crowd following which all the police personnel left the spot.
Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ashkoor Wani, when contacted, refused to comment saying police was doing its job.
A police officer, who preferred not to be named, however said that around two dozen people were injured in the clashes. He said that around ten persons have received bullet injuries. Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo was quoted by a wire service saying that the trouble started when BSF personnel intercepted a suspect for questioning. “The patrolling party of BSF deployed for the security of the (railway) project intercepted a youth roaming under suspicious circumstances in the Dharam belt of Gool tehsil at around 1 A.M,” Kichloo was quoted. The youth, identified as one Shabir, was questioned about his presence in the area and may have been beaten up by the security personnel, Kichloo said.
The disturbance was fuelled by statements from a Moulvi of a local madrasa who denounced the action of the security personnel as having been sacrilegious, thereby allegedly inciting the people, Kichloo said. Stone pelting by the large mob which attacked the BSF camp led to injuries to a few BSF men, Kichloo alleged.
Police was rushed to the spot to control the mob which, however, turned violent. The firing left four persons dead and four others injured, he said. The injured have been hospitalized and the situation is under control, he said, adding that the entire area has been sealed.