By Suhail A Shah “A firing incident almost coinciding with the Zubin Mehta show, triggered a chain of reactions in entire South Kashmir. By the time cabinet responded, the toll was up. Suhail A Shah visits the bereaved families to explain why South is still smouldering.”
As the clock struck noon on 7th of September the red carpet was rolled out for the Bavarian State orchestra at Shalimar Garden in Srinagar while the international media, who had arrived to cover the 90 minute concert, interacted with activists at a parallel event organised by the Coalition of Civil Societies (CCS).
At the same time CRPF personnel of the 14th Battalion shot 4 people dead and injured another in Gagren area of Shopian, some 53 Kilometres South East of the Srinagar city.
Ever since, different versions of what unfolded in Gagren that fateful day have been tumbling out.
That day nineteen-year-old Adil Ahmad Wachkoo left home, in Bonna Bazar area of the Shopian town just before noon.
He was to appear in BA first year bi-annual examination to be held at the Government Degree College, Shopian, situated near the CRPF camp in Gagren.
In the market place Adil’s friend Tawseef Ahmad Bhat, 19, from Baba Mohalla Shopian offered him a lift, which he gleefully accepted and both started to ride towards the college.
“We were stopped by the CRPF personnel guarding the camp gate,” said Adil, the lone survivor of the shootout.
The CRPF personnel, according to Adil, demanded to see the papers of Tawseef’s bike which he failed to produce.
“The uniformed men made us stand there for about ten minutes, hurling occasional abuses at us,” Adil said, “and then everything went blank.”
He recalls standing there and then sound of the gunshots; however, he remains unsure of where exactly the fire came from.
“Shot at, we ran from the spot,” Adil recalls, “And collapsed in a nearby alley.”
They were spotted by some locals who ferried them to the hospital in separate vehicles.
While Adil, shot in the abdomen, made it to the SMHS Hospital in Srinagar, Tawseef succumbed to his injuries on the way.
“I was later told that he breathed his last at Pulwama,” says Adil.
Two others killed in the shootout were later identified as Tariq Ahmad Mir, 32, of Wokai village in neighbouring Kulgam district, a Walnut trader by profession and Muhammad Yousuf, 29, a businessman from Zainapora area of Shopian.
According to the families, Tariq was in Gagren area to pick up a consignment of walnuts, while Yousuf, was there to purchase some cardboard boxes used to pack apples which he was to deliver at some other place later.
The fourth slain was buried unidentified in Digam village of Shopian.
Police maintained that while three among the four slain have been identified as civilians with no militant records, the fourth one could not be identified by anybody.
“However the evidence collected from the scene of the shootout gives the impression that he might have been Pakistani National and a Lashkar-e-Toiba operative, Abdullah Haroon,” the police maintained.
The statement was in contrast to the earlier police statement, issued on the day of the shootout, wherein the police had claimed that two of the slain were ‘anti-national elements, who had attacked the CRPF personnel, standing guard at the camp gate’.
The CRPF on the other hand said that six youth riding two bikes came towards the camp gate and when they were questioned by the guards they started abusing.
“Moreover one of them drew a pistol and fired two rounds at the guards,” CRPF spokesperson, Kishore Prasad told Kashmir Life, “The pistol however got locked after that.”
He said that in retaliatory fire four of them were killed, one was injured and another managed to flee the scene.
Regarding the police clean chit to three of the slain, Prasad said that a thorough investigation into the matter will reveal that all of them were militants. “We too have ordered a procedural probe into the matter,” Prasad said.
September 16, 2013