New Delhi/Srinagar: A young man was killed on Wednesday in a clash between police and a group of protestors, who were agitated over three civilian deaths in an alleged firing by security forces the day before in north Kashmir, officials said.
As the Kashmir Valley appeared to be caught in a fresh vicious cycle of violence, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in Delhi seeking "time-bound" probe into the deaths of three people, who were allegedly hit by army bullets on Tuesday in Handwara town, some 70 kms from Srinagar.
The killings triggered widespread protests on Wednesday even as the authorities imposed strict restrictions in parts of the valley. Many areas in the old city of Srinagar were also under curfew amid a shutdown call by separatist groups over the killings in the town that lies in Kupwara district, once a hotbed of militancy and sharing a long border with Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Police said a group of violent protestors hurled stones at security forces in Drugmulla village of the north Kashmir district. A 1,000-strong group of people gathered near a police post at Drugmulla and tried to torch it, a police official said.
Police fired tear smoke shells to disperse the angry mob, he said.
Eyewitnesses alleged that a burning canister of tear gas hit Jahangir Ahmad Wani, 25. The shell burst on his head. The man was taken to a hospital where he succumbed, they said. A mob also set ablaze a police post in the nearby Langet town, police added.
The state government, meanwhile, suspended a police officer for "mishandling" the law and order situation in the tense Handwara town. The action against the assistant sub inspector calmed down the situation for time being as a 50-year-old woman and a 19-year-old budding cricketer Nayeem Bhat, who died on Tuesday, were buried amid anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.
Some journalists alleged that they were also roughed up by police as they were covering protests in Handwara. Asim Shah, a reporter with daily Kashmir Reader, said he and a fellow scribe were beaten up in Handwara.
The violent protests came a day after three people were killed allegedly in firing by security forces on protestors in Handwara on Tuesday. People were protesting over reports that a Kashmiri teenager was allegedly molested by an army man in a public loo. However, the army has denied that any of its soldiers was involved.
An online video, circulated by the army, showed a hijab-clad girl saying she was slapped by a Kashmiri man as she came out of the public loo in Handwara on Tuesday afternoon.
She said the man abused her as she wondered what he was talking about. By this time, another man joined in and they wanted to take her to a police station and kept asking who was with her in the washroom, she said in the 1.16-minute clip.
"They checked in and there was nobody. I insisted I will go with a policeman who was standing nearby," the girl, in a school uniform, says in the video, apparently recorded on a cellphone. She alleges that a large group gathered and began shouting slogans.
The army circulated the video but said it didn't know who captured it. However, the force said it regretted the death of civilians in the firing and announced a probe. "The army deeply regrets the unfortunate" loss of lives, it said in a statement, adding, "the matter will be investigated and anybody found guilty will be dealt as per the law".
With the situation in the Kashmir Valley turning tense, Chief Minister Mehbooba, who took over on April 4, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi.
Mehbooba said she discussed various issues, including the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir, with the prime minister. "Such tragic incidents have a huge negative impact on the efforts of the government and political leadership in bringing peace to the state," the chief minister told reporters.
She also met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who, she said, "assured me that a probe will be initiated and the culprits will be punished".