Srinagar: Rights group Amnesty International has called on Indian authorities to conduct effective, independent and impartial investigations into the killings of seven civilians by a blast in the aftermath of the Kulgam gunfight in Jammu and Kashmir and bring those responsible to justice.
“In case of any direct or indirect violence between security forces and armed groups, extra caution should be exercised to ensure that civilians in the area do not become collateral damage. Safety of the civilian population should be of paramount importance,” said Aakar Patel, Amnesty India.
Seven civilians were killed in Kashmir’s Kulgam district on October 21 in an explosion at the site of the gunfight between militants and armed forces.
The police claimed that the civilians were killed by “stray explosives” after they rushed to the encounter site, despite a warning by armed forces.
One of the media reports quoted a senior police officer admitting that they withdrew from the encounter site without sanitising the area. The police later registered a case about the incident and has initiated an investigation.
“What transpired in the aftermath of the Kulgam encounter is unfortunate and could have been avoided had the authorities taken extra caution to ensure that civilians would have access to the area only after proper sanitization of the encounter site was done. While we acknowledge that a case has been registered, we urge the authorities to ensure all those responsible for the incident are brought to justice for their failure to protect the human rights of the population of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Aakar Patel.
Seven civilians were killed after an unexploded shell burst at the site after the gunfight in Kulgam ended. Three militants were killed in the gunfight.
The Joint Resistance Leadership had called for Lal Chowk March on Tuesday against the killings. However, strict restrictions were put in place in the commercial hub to foil the march.
Yasin Malik, the Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, was detained by the cops from Lal Chowk after he tried to lead a protest.
Malik, who had evaded arrest from his Maisuma residence was detained by cops outside the Masjid-e-Ameer Hamza in the adjoining locality of Koker Bazaar.
Moreover, Jammu and Kashmir Police detained Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq after he defied his house arrest and tried to march towards Lal Chowk. A spokesperson of the amalgam said a large posse of police personnel deployed outside the Nigeen residence of Mirwaiz detained him after he defied his house arrest and tried to march towards Lal Chowk.
On Monday, the police issued an advisory, asking commuters to use an alternate route as no traffic would be allowed between Amira Kadal and Regal Chowk.
Meanwhile, high speed internet was suspended by the authorities and reduced to 2G as a precautionary measure.
A complete shutdown was observed in Kashmir in the aftermath of the civilian killings. A powerful explosion after a gunfight in Laroo village of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district in which three militants were killed led to the death of the civilians.
The news about the Kulgam killings spread like wild fire on Sunday and public movement in Srinagar city and major towns of Kashmir valley virtually came to a grinding halt as passenger transport vehicles were rarely moving on very few roads in the Srinagar city.
In a statement on Sunday evening, the Joint Resistance Leadership said that Kashmir has been turned into “a slaughterhouse where no one—young, old, children or women—is safe.”
Calling the Kulgam killings as ‘terrible news’, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday asked “how long can the ground realities be ignored and living in denial of bad situation in Kashmir.”
“Terrible news coming out from Kulgam.May the deceased find place in Jannat. Alienating the people in the fight against militancy is a sure fire recipe for losing the fight. How long can we go on ignoring the ground realities & living in denial about how bad things are in Kashmir?” Omar wrote on Twitter.
PDP President and former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti also expressed shock over the death of seven civilians and injuries to scores others in Kulgam.
Kashmir Economic Alliance chairperson (KEA) Muhammad Yaseen Khan on Sunday strongly condemned the killings in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district which has left seven civilians dead and dozens seriously injured.
Blaming the armed forces for carrying a ‘planned massacre’ in state, KTMF president termed it sheer cowardice and an inhuman act.
A Sikh Body, Gurmat Taksal while calling Kashmir a dispute, said in a statement that they condemn killing of innocent civilians in Kulgam and called for the bloodshed in Kashmir to end once for all.