Contrary to the claims of the Indian Army over the Shopian firing incident on Sunday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday asserted that “civilians were caught” in the late night shootout at Shopian in south Kashmir. In a tweet, CM Mufti condoled the deaths of the civilians. The CM’s statement comes after the army claimed that a militant and three over ground workers (associates of the terrorists) were killed when militants opened fire on a checkpoint after they were asked to stop.
Following the Chief Minister’s statement, the army has taken a step back from their claims. Commenting on the development, Brigadier Harbir Singh of 12 Sector Rashtriya Rifles told The Indian Express that there is a thin line between civilian and over ground workers (OGW) and it is a matter of investigation as to what extent they were involved in supporting terrorists. He accepted that those killed in the army’s alleged cross-fire were ‘definitely civilians’.
Deeply distressed by more deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire in Shopian. My heartfelt condolences to the deceased’s families.
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) March 5, 2018
Notably, on Monday, two more bodies were found near the site. While one is learnt to be that of a militant, the other is told to be a civilian. The bodies were found in a car nearly 100 metres away from where the alleged gun-fight happened taking the toll in the incident to six. The Jammu and Kashmir police have also accepted that among those killed in the attack were two militants and four civilians. The police added that the two slain militants belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The development has escalated tensions in the state. While the joint separatist leadership had called for a valley-wide shutdown and a march to Shopian on Wednesday, the Opposition party in the state, National Conference, said the deaths could not be justified by calling the people overground workers of militant groups. The leaders of National Conference have sought an investigation into the incident, and said the report should be made public.
Abdul Rashid Lone, the father of 23-year-old Gowhar Ahmad Lone who was among those killed, has challenged the army’s claim saying the gunfight alleged by the army seems faulty as there were no bullets found on the car seat and there was no blood in the car in which his son died. He suspected that his son may have been dragged out of the car and killed.
Meanwhile, the state police detained Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Yasin Malik, on Monday, after he tried to march towards Lal Chowk against the deaths in Shopian.