‘Soldiers filming Iftaar party was a provocation’

Residents of Imamsahab wonder as they deal with its aftermath

Gulzar Bhat
Shopian, Publish Date: May 23 2018 12:16AM | Updated Date: May 23 2018 12:38AM
‘Soldiers filming Iftaar  party was a provocation’File Photo

Residents of Imamsahab, DK Pora of Shopian wondered why soldiers shot and wounded four girls in the area on Monday evening at Iftaar time knowing well their presence could provoke trouble. 

“I could not stomach the mere sight of them in village,” said a resident as he spat in anger, while his friend said that they would face the wrath of people if they dared to come again to host iftaar. 

Late on Monday evening the villagers were waiting for the call of muezzin to break their Ramadhan fast when a posse of soldiers from the nearby 34 Rashtriya Rifles appeared in the village. 

The troops pitched a tent in the Eidgah and set up stalls filled with packed foodstuff. A few of them took out a camera and began to record the scene. Several villagers objected to going there to take the packets. 

Passions soon flared up between the residents and the army men. 

“We politely asked them to leave but they refused and engaged in a verbal brawl,” said a villager who didn’t want to be named. He said villagers did not understand for what purpose they were filming the event.

According to witnesses, while the troopers were there young men began to shout pro-freedom and pro-Pakistan slogans. And some of them took down the stalls and threw the food aside. 

The soldiers began to retreat to the edge of the village. While there, the residents said that they first shot a few rounds in the air. 

“But they (soldiers) soon resorted to target firing and injured four girls,” said a young man among a group of villagers. 

“We also threw stones and bricks over them,” another man said.

A few days ago, an officer from 34 RR had apprised the village Committee that he would host an Iftar Party in the village on 24 May. Later, several members of the committee had called on the officer and urged him not to organise the event, apprehending trouble. 

As the soldiers were shooting, 14-year-old Aksa, a standard 8 student, stepped out of her house located near the edge of village, to check where her father had gone. That is when a bullet hit her and she passed out falling the ground.

“We shifted her to a Primary Health Centre (PHC) from where she was referred to District Hospital Shopian” said her father Mohammad Ayob.

Recounting the horror, Aksa, who was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday morning, said she first thought that she was hit by a stone.

“But when I saw myself drenched in blood I realised I was hit by a bullet and I fell unconscious.”

A good few meters away stands the house of two injured sisters—Shafia(18) and Sharika(16). Both were in their courtyard, helping their mother milk cows when bullets hit them piercing through the tin compound wall.

Shafia was hit in her leg, knocking her down. While her mother tried to remove Shafia, her other daughter Sharika screamed. A bullet had pierced her elbow. 

“They both were soaked in blood. I did not know what to do. I just cried and cried aloud,” said Shakeela, mother of the sisters. 

The wounded sisters were shifted to SMHS Srinagar after receiving primary treatment at District Hospital Kulgam.

The story of another wounded girl is similar. Eighteen year old Shoby, a class 12 student’s home is at the periphery of the village.

Lying on the bed with her bandaged right arm, Shoby says she was returning from a local Darsgah (seminary) when a bullet hit her right arm.

“As I reached near the front gate of my house a bullet hit my arm,” said Shoby.

She was also shifted to District Hospital Kulgam from where doctors referred her to SMHS, Srinagar. She was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday morning.

The army said hosting the iftaar party was just a goodwill gesture and they had already spoken to some of people in the area about their plan.

An army spokesman issued a statement Tuesday, saying:

“At around 1930 hours as the iftar was under progress some miscreants from village barged into the masjid and started shouting anti-national and pro- Pakistan slogan. Very soon large crowd instigated by the miscreants gathered outside masjid and surrounded the army troops present there. The crowd resorted to heavy stone pelting posing serious threat to the safety of army men. The army men verbally cautioned the crowd, but when the stone pelting further intensified, they took necessary preventive measures and moved out of the area.”

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