Kashmir: Mehbooba raises questions on civilian deaths in Poonch

Maintaining that the people of Rajouri and Poonch districts are peace-loving and never supported terrorism, the PDP accused the BJP of "weaving false narratives of zero terrorism in the valley."

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti held a press conference in Srinagar on Saturday, December 23, raising questions on the Indian Army’s role in the death of three civilians on Friday, December 22.

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The development comes against the backdrop of the death of five soldiers in a terror attack in Poonch district.

Soon after the attack, a disturbing video started circulating on social media platforms showing a group of men in Indian Army attire kicking and smearing red chilli powder on the bodies of three civilians.

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“Reports are coming from Topa Peer village near Bafliaz in Poonch district suggesting that the Indian Army picked up 15 people for interrogation. Among them, the bodies of three people – Safir Hussain, Shaukhat Hussain, and Mohammed Shabeer – are seen lying on the ground while chilli powder is being smeared on their bruises. The remaining 12 people are currently receiving medical treatment in various hospitals,” Mufti said adding that she was unable to prove the authenticity of the video.

Maintaining that the people of Rajouri and Poonch districts are ‘peace-loving’ and never supported militancy, the PDP accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of weaving “false narratives of zero terrorism” in the valley.

Yeh kaisa khushal Kashmir hai? kaisa naya Kashmir hai? Jahan na tho Army wala surakshit hai aur yahan ke log… (What kind of prosperous Kashmir is this? What kind of new Kashmir is this? Where neither the Army is secure nor the locals),” she asked.

“I urge Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to announce Rs 50 lakh for the innocent civilians killed and Rs 5 lakh for those injured till an inquiry is ordered and completed,” Mufti added.

Following the development, mobile internet was suspended as a precautionary measure to check the spread of rumors by anti-social elements.

Protests erupt

Several regional political parties like the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP), Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), and Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) condemned the civilian killings.

Masoomon ka qatl-e-‘aam, bandh karo, bandh karo (Stop the slaughter of innocents),” the protestors shouted.

DPAD president Ghulam Nabi Azad urged the Centre to take swift action and ensure the safety of citizens.

Compensation announced

The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Saturday, December 23, announced compensation and jobs to the kin of the three civilians who were found dead near the site of an anti-terrorist operation in Poonch district.

On December 22, two vehicles of the Army carrying troops, including a Gypsy and a truck, came under militant fire in the Dera Ki Gali (DKG) area in Bafliaz. Security forces had started a joint operation in the Surankote area after intelligence that a group of armed men were hiding there

Reports indicate that there could have been hand-to-hand combat between the soldiers and the armed men during the attack.

Three soldiers were killed in the initial contact between gunned militants and the security forces. Two more succumbed to critical injuries while undergoing treatment.

Despite extensive combing operations going on in both Poonch and Rajouri districts, security forces have not so far succeeded in locating the hiding the militants.

This is the second major incident in Poonch district this year. On April 20, five soldiers were killed and several others injured in an attack in the Bhimber Gali area of Poonch.

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