Monday, February 19, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

GOC regrets firing, orders probe
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, February 18
Lt-Gen J.R. Mukherjee, GOC of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps of the Army, here today said that an inquiry had been ordered into the Haigam firing incident while investigations were also going on in Maisuma firing incident. Seven persons were killed and 24 others injured in these incidents followed by widespread violence and agitation in the entire valley over the past three days, forcing the authorities to clamp curfew here.

Giving details of the two incidents, Lt-Gen J.R. Mukherjee, who is also the security Adviser to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, expressed “condolences and regrets over these deaths to the bereaved families and to the people of Kashmir”. While appealing the people to abjure agitation and violence, Lt-Gen Mukherjee assured that “those of my men who are blameworthy will be brought to book and dealt with according to the law”.

“We have in addition received conflicting reports with reference to elements that have actually resorted to firing in the incident”, Lt-Gen Mukherjee stated at a press conference here today in his reference to the firing incident at Haigam, Pattan in Baramula district on Thursday last. “As the convoy commenced the move the crowd turned violent and started pelting stones and kangris at the convoy. There are also reports of some elements firing at the convoy. The convoy commander in exercise his right to protect a military operational convoy and in the right to exercise self-defence ordered five of his men to open controlled fire in the air and move on quickly to the destination”, Lt-Gen Mukherjee stated. He added that a police party and additional troops arrived on the scene requesting the agitators to clear the road for the movement of the traffic. They were protesting against the killing of one Jalil Ahmad Shah of Haigam, reportedly in an encounter with the security forces during the preceding night, and claiming his body.

Referring to the incident at Maisuma here on Friday, a day after the Haigam incident, Lt-Gen Mukherjee said that an intelligence detachment of 15 Corps in plain clothes in a civil pattern vehicle had gone into the town to check on the current situation. “As they crossed the Maisuma Bridge, they ran straight into a violent mob that immediately started stoning them. The driver was injured and the vehicle damaged consequent to which the driver veered and banged into a shop on the side of the road. The injured driver in exercise of his right to self-defence took out his pistol and fired two rounds at the mob”, the GOC stated.

Four persons were killed, two of them on the spot, at Haigam on Thursday (February 15), while two others later succumbed to their injuries taking the toll to six and injuries to about 20 others, 11 of them with bullet injuries. One person, Javed Ahmad Nath died in the firing incident at Maisuma here on Friday, while three others received bullet injuries. The protest demonstrations were held in Maisuma against the killings at Haigam.

A large gathering of over 30,000 people at Haigam in Baramula district was addressed by senior Hurriyat Conference leader, Moulvi Abbas Ansari today. The meeting was held in connection with the fourth day mouring of those killed in the killings last week. Several other leaders also addressed the gathering. Shabir Ahmad Shah, president of the J&K Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) who was held here yesterday was shifted to the Central Jail today, reports said. Several other leaders, including Javed Ahmad Mir of the JKLF are lodged in various police stations. Other APHC leaders including its chairman, Abdul Ghani Bhat and former Chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani are under house arrest.

Asked to comment on the press release issued by the Army immediately after the Haigam incident blaming the police for the firing, Lt-Gen Mukherjee said initial reports were conflicting but “I have apologised to the police”.

“On part of the Army, I give you my solemn word that any of my men found guilty will be punished,” he said and appealed to the people to shun violence.

“The vast majority of us wish to see peace return to Kashmir. Let us join hands to counter those who are instigating violence in a bid to derail the peace process,” Lt-Gen Mukherjee said.

He said he would ensure that such incidents do not recur.

To a question, Lt-Gen Mukherjee said army intelligence personnel had no business to go to Maisuma.

Lt-Gen Mukherjee did not give details about the security force casualties.

About 85 per cent encounters were initiated by militants while rest took place after militants fired upon the patrolling parties, he added.

When asked if he favoured further extension of the unilateral ceasefire, he said, “I have submitted my detailed report about the overall situation after the ceasefire in Kashmir to the government through my superiors”.

“My report is a classified document so I cannot give any details about it,” he said when insisted whether he favoured further extension of the ceasefire or not.

Gen Mukherjee offered no comments when told that an FIR has been registered by police against the Army for unprovoked firing.

When his attention was drawn to the allegation that Jaleel was arrested by the SOG and the Army from his shop and later killed in custody, Lt-Gen Mukherjee said let us investigate the whole issue first.

Lt-Gen Mukherjee said he has directed all field commanders that such incidents should not occur again in future.

Meanwhile, sporadic clashes between the police and demonstrators continued for the third day today in the bandh-hit Kashmir valley while the curfew imposed in parts of Srinagar on Friday was extended to some more areas as a “precautionary measure.”

Groups of youths indulged in stone-throwing and burning of tyres at nearly 12 places in the city, including Nowshehra, Gojwara, Noorbagh, Naidkadal, Khawaja Bazar, Natipora, Parimpora, Bemina, Habbakadal and Babadamb for the third day today, official sources said here.

The police dispersed the demonstrators by firing tear gas shells and using lathis. Five demonstrators were detained by the police from Natipora, Babadamb and Naidkadal during the clashes which caused no harm, they added.

Slogan-shouting youths also took to the streets in other areas of Srinagar to protest against the alleged custodial killings and firing on demonstrators at Haigam and Maisuma on Thursday and Friday which left seven persons dead and scores injured. There was no report of clash between the protestors and the police as yet, the sources said.

The curfew which was imposed on the areas falling under Maisuma and Kothibagh police station on Friday following large-scale violence was today extended to areas under the jurisdiction of Shaheedgunj police station.

Besides the three police station areas, the curfew continued in the Batmaloo area of central Srinagar for the third day today, the sources said.

However, the curfew was lifted from Natipora and Rambagh localities of Srinagar today, the sources said.

The situation in the curfew-bound areas was peaceful but tense, the sources said, adding that there was no curfew violation reported from any area.

Meanwhile, shops and business establishments remained closed in the Kashmir valley for the third day today.

All modes of transport, barring some private vehicles and autorickshaws, were off the roads, they said.Back

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