■The deceased civilians were identified as Muhammad Ashraf, 22, son of Ghulam Hassan Khar of Kharpora Arwani village and a class 8th student Ehsan Mushtaq son of Mushtaq Ahmad Dar of Shamsipora village of Qaimoh, Kulgam●
Arwani (Anantnag) : Two youth were killed and at least 30 others injured on Friday as government forces opened fire and used pellets and teargas shells on protesters who tried to march towards the encounter site in Arwani village of Bijbehara in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district to help the trapped militants escape.
The deceased civilians were identified as Muhammad Ashraf, 22, son of Ghulam Hassan Khar of Kharpora Arwani village and a class 8th student Ehsan Mushtaq son of Mushtaq Ahmad Dar of Shamsipora village of Qaimoh, Kulgam.
“Ashraf sustained bullet injury in abdomen,” doctors at District Hospital Anantnag told Greater Kashmir.
They said that he was declared brought dead on his arrival.
“Eshan had bullet injury in chest and was also received dead on his arrival,” doctors at Sub District Hospital (SDH) Qaimoh Kulgam told this newspaper.
Thousands of people participated in the funeral prayers of the deceased youth, who were laid to rest amid pro-freedom slogans.
“At least twenty more civilians injured during clashes in Arwani were received at District Hospital Anantnag, SDH Bijbehara and other health care centres while many more minor pellet, shell and sling shot injuries were treated locally,” sources said.
“We also received eight more injuries with one more bullet injury and rest pellet and tear gas shell injuries,” doctors at DH Anantnag said.
They said among the other injured one had received pellet injuries in eye and other multiple pellet injuries in shoulder and head. “Both of them were referred to SMHS Srinagar,” doctors added.
Doctors at Sub District hospital (SDH) Bijbehara said that they received 10 injuries, four of them had sustained bullet injuries while others were hit by pellets.
“Two bullet injury victims are being treated in the hospital while two grievous ones have been referred to SMHS and SKIMS in Srinagar,” a doctor said.
He said that three serious pellet injury victims were also referred to SMHS hospital in Srinagar. “Two youth were hit by pellets in eyes and other one had multiple pellet injuries all over his body and head,” doctors said adding they were referred after first aid.
As the word about three Laskhar militants, including district commander Kulgam Junaid Matoo, spread, people came out amid pro-freedom slogans and tried to break the cordon. People from Qaimoh, Kulgam, Bijbehara and Anantnag villages also started marching towards Arwani through paddy fields and joined the natives to help the militants escape.
However, they were confronted by large posse of paramilitary forces, police and army who used force to disperse them.
The protesters hurled stones and bricks on the forces who lobbed teargas canisters and then fired barrage of pellets injuring many.
The protesters however refused to budge and their number kept on swelling.
The forces also resorted to indiscriminate firing on the protesters and at least seven were hit with bullets. The people, braving restrictions, were seen ferrying the injured to the hospitals.
Loud explosions could also be heard from the encounter site as forces continued to use heavy artillery to blow up the houses where the militants were holed up. Women were seen praying for the safety of the militants.
Meanwhile, a youth who was part of the protests was allegedly beaten up by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel.
The youth slipped into Vaishaw river near Arwani bridge as CRPF men caught hold of him and beat him up with guns.
They (CRPF men) even abused the media men including this reporter and even barred the photojournalists from taking pictures.
The youth was not immediately handed over to the police while some CRPF men were heard calling for shooting the youth.
The youth was later identified as Shakoor Ahmad Teli son of Muhammad Shafi of Goriwan locality of Bijbehara town.
The CRPF men even pelted stones on the group of media men who were performing their professional duties.
Meanwhile, protests and clashes broke out in many South Kashmir villages as the word about Junaid Matoo and other militants trapped in encounter reached there.
Protests in Kulgam, Bijbehara elsewhere:
Spontaneous shutdown was observed in many Kulgam villages including Khudwani, Qaimoh native place of Junaid Matoo while clashes erupted in Frisal Yaripora. The Bijbehara town also observed shutdown, violent protests broke out in old town Anantnag.
Clashes also erupted in the Pulwama town while protests broke out in Heff village of Shopian. There had been rumors that Nasir Sheikh of Heff village is also trapped.
Mobile internet snapped in south Kashmir:
Authorities snapped mobile internet in South Kashmir while phone network also remained affected in many areas. The train service was also suspended.
Inputs from gk