Boys killed at Army Checkpoint Were Out For Fun

SRINAGAR: Two hospitalized teenage boys who survived when army fired at their car after it allegedly jumped a mobile check point in Budgam district have spoken about the incident that has sparked outrage in Kashmir Valley. 

The injured boys who were fired upon by army soldiers in Chattergam village on Monday evening broke their silence and said they were not warned or asked to surrender before trigger happy troops pumped bullets in to the car and killed two of their teenage friends when they were returning after witnessing a Muharram procession. 

School-going boys Zahid Ayoub and Shakir Ahmad Bhat were critically injured when army fired on their car in which they were travelling along with three of their friends Faisal, Me’raj-ud-din Dar and Basim. Faisal and Me’raj were killed while Basim escaped unhurt.

Zahid was hit by a bullet in his right leg while Shakir was hit in the shoulder. Both are currently recuperating in the army’s base hospital in Srinagar.

The duo said they were on their way to their house when the incident took place. “Faisal was driving the car and Basim was sitting with him on the front seat, while Meraj, who died in the firing, was sitting with them on the back seat”.

“We were moving at fast speed and in the meantime, army men directed us to stop by showing their hands and they also whistled,” said Zahid at the army hospital.

  Zahid said he was the only one among the five boys who noticed army men ordering them to stop. “I told Faisal that they are directing us to stop, but he didn’t understand as we were laughing and cracking jokes,” the 9th class student said. 

“I told him again and he looked backward towards me and in the process, our car brushed a tipper on the right side. But, we were unhurt,” Zahid said.

He said as they started to slow down, three army men approached the car and without uttering a word loaded their guns and started volley of fire on them.“They said nothing before firing indiscriminately. After they showered bullets on us, they came closer to our car and said ‘surrender your weapons’,” he said.

Zahid said that they told army men that they don’t have any weapon. “We told them to search the car,” he said.

After army couldn’t find anything, they took all of them to army hospital in one of their vehicles. Senior police officers and the district magistrate of Srinagar has confirmed the teens had no militant links. 

The army, which first claimed to have fired on the white Maruti Suzuki in self defence, was forced to change its statement after a police search of the vehicle and its occupants confirmed they were unarmed. Instead it said the boys had failed to stop at two consecutive checkpoints.

Abdul Rehman Bhat, father of one of the injured boys, said that an officer at the Army’s 92 Base Hospital had acknowledged the mistake.

“(He) told me the soldiers fired on the car from behind. Soldiers in front of the car thought the firing had come from inside the vehicle,” Bhat told a New Delhi based newspaper.

Shakir Ahmad Bhat, who is eleventh-grade Arts student, said he doesn’t know whether army directed them to stop or not as their car brushed the tripper and their attention was diverted. “Army suddenly opened fire. We started to shout: what is happening,” he said.

He said his friends Faisal and Me’raj lost consciousness. “We couldn’t later utter a word,” he said, adding: “as if someone had put a lock on our mouths.”

He said another of their friend, Basim, managed to escape unhurt as he alighted as soon as the car stopped.

Both the injured friends said that they didn’t expect army to fire. “We had never thought that army would target us like this.”

“I get nightmares about the incident. I can’t sleep,” Shakir concluded. With inputs from GNS

 

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