Fury in Kashmir after youth killed by police vehicle

Incident is the second in less than a month involving police vehicle killing protester during weekly demonstrations.

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    Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir - Anger is mounting in Indian-administered Kashmir following the death of a 21-year-old man who was crushed by a military vehicle during a protest. 

    The incident on Friday was the second in less than a month involving a police vehicle killing a protester during the weekly stone-throwing demonstrations in the restive Himalayan valley. 

    Eye-witnesses told Al Jazeera that two young protesters were mowed down by the paramilitary vehicle after Friday prayers at Nowhatta locality in Srinagar outside the region's grand mosque - a focal point for many protests.

    "The protesters tried to stop the vehicle but the forces continued to move," said Shahid Ahmad, a resident who was at the scene.

    Qaisar Ahmad Bhat, who was initially critically injured, succumbed overnight due to massive lung contusion, Farooq Jan, the medical superintendent of Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, said.

    Relatives of the victim, whose funeral took place on Saturday told Al Jazeera that he had suffered "severe internal bleeding".

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    "He used to take part in the protests every Friday. He was caught by surprise when he was run over by the vehicle. He got no chance to save himself," said Bhat's 25-year-old cousin, Ahmad.

    "His parents died some years ago and now he along with his two teenage sisters were taken care by their aunt."

    Ahmad, the local, described the incident as "a cold-blooded murder".

    "Only that the bullets were not used to kill him." 

    Footage from the scene, which showed the other youth struggling under the wheels of the armoured vehicle, was widely shared on social media. Doctors told Al Jazeera that the man is in stable condition and is being treated with facial and zygomatic fractures.

    Anti-India sentiment runs deep into the Muslim-majority Kashmir region. The region has witnessed renewed violence after 2016 when a popular rebel commander Burhan Wani was killed in a gunfight. The two-decade-old armed struggle has now been mostly replaced by the street protests, generating intermittent tensions in the region.

    'Accident'

    Speaking to Al Jazeera, Sanjay Sharma, the spokesperson for the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) describe the incident as "an accident as a large number of stone-throwers tried to overpower the heavily armoured vehicle". 

    "There was a senior officer in the vehicle who had gone to the field to check the paramilitary deployment when the vehicle came under heavy stone-throwing," he said.

    Sharma claimed that "the forces maintained restraint and did not open fire." 

    "It should be hailed and appreciated how the forces behaved when they were being attacked by the mob. It was a threat to their life."

    In a bid to avoid further trouble, authorities on Saturday suspended mobile internet and put the old parts of the region's main city under strict curfew to prevent people from taking to streets. 

    But hundreds of mourners attended a funeral march, which fired upon with tear gas by security forces.

    2003 ceasefire

    The latest tension comes at a time when the Indian government has announced a unilateral pause on operations during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan

    Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, from the main opposition party in the region, criticised the current head of the state Mehbooba Mufti, whose People's Democratic Party is ruling the state in a coalition with Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party. 

    "Ceasefire means no guns so use jeeps," he tweeted, asking Mufti, "if this was the standard operating procedure of dealing with protesters". 

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    On May 5, in a similar incident, an 18-year-old youth was run over by a police vehicle during stone-throwing in Srinagar following a battle in which three rebels were killed.

    Officials termed the killing as an accident, but a widely shared video clip of the incident showed a police vehicle directly hitting the protester from behind and crushing him under the tires.

    Kashmir continues to be a point of contention between India and Pakistan who have fought three wars over a region both claim in its entirety.

    India often accuses Pakistan of cross-border "terrorism", an allegation Pakistan denies.

    Earlier this week, the senior army personnel of both countries agreed to restore a ceasefire deal signed in 2003 to reduce the daily exchange of fire.

    The step, however, has offered little relief to the thousands of border residents since similar attempts have failed in the past.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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