4 civilians killed, 60 injured in Kulgam

CM reviews situation; colleges, schools closed

Fayaz Bukhari
Srinagar, Apr 11: Four civilians were killed in alleged security forces firing in Khudwani area of South Kashmir’s Kulgam district today while over 60 were injured after clashes broke out during the gun battle that raged this morning in the village.
Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, who was in New Delhi, flew to Srinagar to review the situation in the aftermath of the killings. She expressed grief at the loss of lives at Khudwani and also paid tributes to the Army jawan who lost his life in the incident.
She said there is an urgent need to get together to get Jammu and Kashmir out of this vicious cycle of violence and killings. She conveyed her sympathies with the families of those killed and prayed for their eternal solace.
She asked security forces to exercise maximum restrain while dealing with the law and order. She is herself monitoring the situation and held meetings with the top security force and administration officials.
Earlier, Police, Army’s 1-RR and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) cordoned off Khudwani village last night after inputs about presence of three militants in a house. As the security forces launched house to house searches, militants fired at them leading to a gun battle in which a soldier was killed and two security forces personnel were injured.
The soldier has been identified as Sepoy S Gunakar Roy (No. 16121860/K). He succumbed to injuries at Army’s 92-Base hospital in Srinagar where he was evacuated along with two other soldiers.
People in large numbers gathered at the encounter site and pelted stones at the security forces leading to ding dong battles during which four civilians were killed and over 60 injured.
Several houses and shops were badly damaged in the gun battle as security forces used explosives to blast off the houses where militants were hiding. However, they called off the operation after firing stopped and no militant bodies were found in the debris of the houses. As soon as the operation was called off, three militants appeared from the debris of the houses and fled away.
The civilians who were killed at Khudwani have been identified as Sharjeel Sheikh, 25,of Khudwani, Bilal Ahmad Tantray, 16, of Hawoora Mishpora and Faisal Illahi, 14, of Melhoora Shopian and Aijaz Ahmad Palla, 30,son of Mohammad Siraj of Batpora, Nagbal at present Tulkhan village in Bijbehara.
Four injured are being treated at SKIMS hospital. One among the injured youth, Adil Ahmad, 25, from Anantnag is stated to be critical.
At least eight injured persons were admitted in the SMHS hospital Srinagar. Among them, 50-year-old Abdul Salam Dar son of Abdul Rahim Dar of Havoora had a serious firearm injury in his neck. His condition is critical and he is on the ventilator.
Ten injured were brought to District hospital Anantnag  and eight of them who had multiple eye, head and face injuries were referred to Srinagar hospitals. Two injured are still admitted in the hospital. One of them has minor head injury while as another has multiple pellet injuries.
At least 45 injured were brought at Primary Health Centre, Qoimoh. Among the injured some were discharged after first aid, and some were shifted to other district hospitals in South Kashmir and few others were referred to Srinagar hospitals.
Eight injured were admitted at the district hospitals Pulwama and Kulgam. Around a dozen minor injured were treated upon at Kulgam hospital and were discharged.
Meanwhile, thousands of people participated in the funeral prayers of the slain civilians. They were raising slogans against Government and security forces.
A police spokesman said that three civilians were killed in “crossfire” while investigations were underway to ascertain death of Palla.  “In the said encounter three civilians identified as Sarjeel Sheikh of Khudwani, Bilal Ahmad Tantray of Frisal and Faisal Ilahi of Melhoora Shopian who were injured in the crossfire have also succumbed to their injuries. Moreover, 12 persons have also received injuries in the process and are being treated at different hospitals. They are stated to be stable”, police said.
The police also requested citizens not to fall prey to any speculations and rumours which are intended to disturb the peace. “J&K Police seeks your cooperation for maintaining peace,” the spokesman added.
The killing in Kulgam sparked off massive protests amid clashes at several places in Kashmir Valley. Students of Kashmir University, NIT Hazratbal, Islamic University Awantipora and the Central University of Kashmir staged protests against the killings.
Students of schools and colleges protested in several parts of Valley including Handwara, Bandipora, Baramulla, Sumbal, Islamia College Hawal, Degree College Ganderbal, Degree College Pulwama, Women’s College Srinagar and Degree College Kupwara and Pampore.
Other than clashes at Khudwani and its adjoining area, the reports of stone-pelting clashes were received from Sumbal, Bandipora, Handwara, Baramulla, Drangbal, Pulwama and Shopian.
At Baramulla, SHO Police Station Baramulla Khalid Ahmad was hit by a stone at his head during protests. He has skull bone fracture and was shifted to SKIMS hospital in Srinagar. His condition is stated to be stable.
Authorities directed mobile companies to reduce internet speed in Srinagar and snap it in South Kashmir parts. This afternoon internet services were snapped in parts of South Kashmir while as the speed of the mobile internet has been reduced in district Srinagar as a precautionary measure.
Sources said police sent a communication to the cellular companies wherein it has directed them to snap down the mobile internet (2G/3G/4G) data in Pulwama, Shopian and Awantipora with immediate effect. The communication also directed the cellular companies to reduce the 3G/4G speed into 2G speed in Srinagar district with immediate effect. The internet has already been blocked in Kulgam district since midnight.
Authorities today decided to suspend the class work in schools and colleges in most parts of the Kashmir. Kashmir University and Islamic University cancelled examinations and also suspended the class work.
“In view of concerns expressed by students, all Kashmir University examinations scheduled to be held on April 12 (Thursday) and April 13 (Friday) are postponed. Fresh dates will be announced separately later,” a PRO of the varsity said in a statement.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) has postponed the examination of range officers scheduled on Thursday. “The exams scheduled on Thursday have been postponed and will be conducted on Monday (April 16) afternoon,” said a PSC official.
Islamia College of Science and Commerce has cancelled all the examinations scheduled on  Thursday. “Fresh dates for the deferred examinations shall be notified separately. Please check the college website regularly,” an official said.
A Government official said that the class work in all the schools and colleges in South Kashmir districts shall remain suspended on Thursday. The decision was taken as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order in the region, the official said.
Deputy Commissioner Kupwara in a communiqué said: “District administration has decided to suspend the class work in all the schools and colleges of the district except Keran, Karnah and Machil area”.
Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal  said that the district administration has decided to keep all the educational institutions open in the district on Thursday.
An official of the district administration Baramulla said that the class work in all the schools and colleges except in Uri shall remain suspended. The class work in all the schools and colleges in Bandipore will remain suspended. The class works in all the schools and colleges of district Srinagar will remain suspended on Thursday.
An official further said the administration has decided to impose the restrictions in the Old City of Srinagar.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioners of all the South Kashmir districts including Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam, and Anantnag also decided to suspend the class work in all the schools and colleges in these districts, an official said.
The decision to suspend class work in most parts of the Kashmir Valley and restrictions in Old City of Srinagar was taken by the respective District  Magistrates after reviewing the overall security scenario following massive protests by the students in several parts which erupted against the killings of four civilians and injuring of more than 60 others.
Separatists in the meantime called for a complete shutdown tomorrow against civilian killings and peaceful protest after afternoon prayers. “The way Kashmiris are being pushed to the wall through a merciless spree of brutal killings demands from us to be united and collectively raise our voices against this brutality,” a statement issued by Hurriyat said.
The leadership appealed people to “remain ready for coming on to streets and roads if necessary to counter these nefarious designs”.