Srinagar: A 25-year-old man, Mehrajuddin Shah is shot dead by the Indian soldier on Wednesday at a checkpoint in the Budgam district of Kashmir. This has triggered an anti- India protests and clashes in the disputed region.
India’s paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force alleged that the man was driving a car and ignored signals to stop at two checkpoints despite the warning shots by the soldier.
The victims’ uncle, Ghulam Hassan Shah, a police officer who was also traveling with him, told a local newspaper Kashmir Observer that his nephew was killed by troops in “cold-blooded” murder and contradicted the police account.
Both the CRPF and J&K Police claimed Mehrajuddin was shot after he skipped two security checkpoints despite having been warned to stop.
J&K Police responded in its statement, “The said vehicle fled away from two checkpoints points in suspicious condition. The checkpoint party opened fire at the vehicle to impede the attempt. The driver of the vehicle got injured in the incident and has been recognized as Mehrajuddin Shah, son of Ghulam Nabi Shah, resident of Makhama Beerwah Budgam,”.
The CRPF said a “jawan” had first fired “warning shots” to stop Mehrajuddin, worried about a possible “sabotage” attempt as an Army convoy passed nearby.
“A convoy of Army, at that point in time, was passing through the adjacent road and fearing sabotage, the CRPF jawan of C/141, manning this checkpoint, fired warning shots,” it added. “This civilian vehicle was driving in the wrong direction of the road and that was even more alarming. When the car didn’t stop, despite warning shots, the jawan fired at the car and, in turn, the driver was hit on his left shoulder.
Mehrajuddin, who worked at one of the J&K Bank’s village-based khidmat help centers, was shot dead Wednesday morning. Ghulam Nabi Shah, who is posted at the police control room in Srinagar, said his nephew was driving him to work when the incident happened.
In the morning, when he was leaving for office, his nephew offered to drop him.
Shah added, “When we were stopped at the Naka (security checkpoint), I told the constable that I was an ASI posted at the police control room. I told him that I was late and requested him to let us go,” he added.
“The constable told us we could pass but he signaled something to the CRPF trooper who then opened fire and Mehraj was hit. There was no provocation, no warning,” he said.
Too shaken to drive, Shah said, he “panicked and came out of the car and screamed at the constable and the CRPF trooper”.
“Then I ran back towards my nephew who was bleeding profusely. I requested the officials present there to provide a vehicle so I could take him to hospital but they didn’t,” he added. “They didn’t even ask any of the cars passing by to help me. It was only after 20 minutes that I completely lost patience and started to scream in the middle of the road. A local resident then stopped and took us to the hospital but it was too late.”
“Mehrajuddin was declared dead at a hospital nearby”, he said.
The victim’s father, Ghulam Nabi Shah, has also denied the police account, saying his son did not drive through any checkpoints, and that soldiers have deliberately first stopped him and then shot him dead.
“Had soldiers fired at his vehicle while escaping any checkpoint, his car would have got bullet marks,” he told local reporters in Srinagar.
We demand an impartial judicial investigation into the matter so that those responsible for the killing are held accountable, the family member said.
Firdousa, a witness, said, the victim stopped his car when soldiers signaled him.
“A security official told him something to which he replied that he had some emergency. They let him go but as he was getting into his vehicle, they shot him in the back,” she said. “He was killed deliberately. He did no wrong.”
As the news of Mehraj’s death spread in his village, hundreds of men and women began intoning “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom” and demanded that the victim’s body should be returned to the family for burial.
However, authorities did not approve to immediately hand over the body.
As forces moved in to obstruct the villagers from marching, they began throwing stones at the troops, who fired shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop the protests.
Many were injured in the clashes. At least two women with pellet wounds to their eyes were taken to the main hospital in Srinagar for treatment, a doctor said on condition of anonymity because doctors have been prohibited from briefing the media. Authorities sealed down mobile internet service, which is very common in the region when such protests erupt.
Deputy Commissioner, Budgam Tariq Hussain Ganaie has said that an FIR has been lodged. “Whosoever will be found responsible in the killing, will be positively taken to task,”. Authorities also ordered an inquiry into the shooting. Rights groups say such inquiries rarely yield any concrete results and are often aimed at pacifying public anger.