Army Firing Injures Two Civilians In Handwara

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Srinagar- Two civilians sustained gunshot injuries on Thursday in what the army described as an ‘accidental discharge of weapons’ during an altercation with worshippers outside a Masjid in Handwara town of Kupwara district.

The altercation, according to the eyewitnesses, started when the worshippers raised objections over soldiers of 21 RR clicking their pictures and recording videos outside the Jamia Jadeed on Thursday afternoon. The devotees, they said, were preparing for Zuhr prayers when the soldiers arrived there.

“Many devotees saw soldiers clicking their pictures and videos from the entrance of the Masjid. They objected to the army’s action and confronted them. This was the time when the verbal duel turned ugly and soldiers loaded their rifles and shot at and injured two youngsters,” an eyewitness, wishing not to be named, due to fear of reprisal from army, told Kashmir Observer.

The two youth identified as Abdul Ahad Mir from Rajwar and Mujeeb Ahmad Sofi from Handwara, were removed to the nearby hospital for treatment.
However, the doctors there referred them to Srinagar’s SKIMS Bemina for advanced treatment. The condition of both the injured is said to be stable.

“Unfortunately, the bullet has struck his left leg and injured him gravely. The bullet is still in his leg and has also caused a fracture.” Mujeeb’s brother, Shoaib Sofi said

“My brother had nothing to do with this altercation. He was patiently sitting inside the mosque to offer prayers. It’s impossible for me to comprehend the reason behind firing a bullet at my brother,” he added.

When asked about how the situation escalated, Shoaib said that the entire market and devotees are witnesses to the incident.

“Everything will be sorted once these eyewitnesses and the business operators of the Main Chowk reveal details of the incident,” he said.

According to the eyewitnesses, this is not the first time soldiers were spotted clicking pictures and videos of the devotees in the Masjids.

“Today’s incident isn’t an isolated one. It seems as if there’s some pattern behind this sudden move. Since the onset of Ramazan, there have been four-five instances where several army personnel were clicking pictures and recording videos of the devotees across the Handwara town. A few days ago, the soldiers were seen clicking pictures of devotees at a local mosque while offering Zuhr prayers,” they said.

Meanwhile, a defense spokesperson said that the youngsters were injured in an “accidental discharge of weapons” during a scuffle between the soldiers and protesters.

“Troops of 21 RR were on routine patrol in Handwara town. In view of Iftar party planned by the army near the Town Chowk, the troops at about 1.30 PM took few photos of Jamia Masjid, Handwara to showcase happiness & offering of prayers during the holy month of Ramzan,” he said, adding that the army personnel had requested a local to get a few photos from inside.

“It is when the local person was going to take photos, some rogue elements protested, and instigated others to get into an altercation with the troops. While attempting to pacify them, two-three individuals got into a scuffle with the troops wherein there was an accidental discharge of the weapon, injuring two civilians identified as Abdul Ahad Mir of Rajwar & Mujeeb Ah Sofi of Handwara,” he added.

As the crowd was pacified, the spokesperson said, police in the vicinity arrived to jointly control the situation.

The incident also evoked sharp criticism from several mainstream leaders.

People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone said the incident was a result of the “sorry state of affairs” prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir.

“What a sorry state of affairs. One of the most peaceful towns Handwara at the receiving end. Hoping against hope the guilty are punished,” he said in a tweet.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) also condemned the firing incident.

“Security forces barging into religious places, profiling worshippers and shooting civilians at will without any fear of justice is the level of unaccountablity pervasive across J&K. Rather than moving forward, Kashmir seems to have been taken back to 90s again,” a PDP spokesperson said in a tweet.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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