Politicians, activists and families in the Valley have questioned the official version after the Jammu and Kashmir police claimed that three militants including a commander of The Resistance Front (TRF) were killed in a brief shootout in Rambagh area in uptown Srinagar on Wednesday.
“Acting on a specific lead about the three militants travelling in a vehicle in Srinagar’s Rambagh area, a team of Srinagar police cornered the vehicle and killed the trio,” the Jammu and Kashmir police released an official statement soon after the killings.
Among the slain militants, police said, one has been identified as Mehran, a top TRF commander – who was involved in the killing of two teachers from minority community and other civilians in the city.
The other two militants, according to police, were Arafat Ahmed Sheikh and Manzoor Ahmed Mir, residents of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
“The militants were travelling in a car and they were signalled to stop but instead, they opened fire in a bid to flee from the spot but were confronted by the police party,” police said.
During the exchange of firing, all the three militants were killed in the gunfight, police added further.
Minutes after the shootout, chanting slogans for Kashmir’s freedom from India, the people assembled around the blood stained road at the scene of shootout where trio were killed by security forces.
The graphic visuals shared subsequently from the spot show dozens of angry men and women gathered around the blood-splattered portion of the road while contesting police claims accuse them of “cold blooded” murder.
In a 45 second video showed an angry woman, who witnessed the shootout, wailing and cursing the J&K police and government for the unending bloodbath in valley.
“Kahe ya mara bhai to nahi mara,” the woman could be heard wailing aloud.
“What are you [world bodies] doing. No one is taking care of us. What crime had they [slain] committed… their mothers would be thinking they are safe, but they have fallen to bullets. They have perished. How many mothers would face this fate?” she asks.
While regretting the “bloodshed” taking place in Kashmir, she could be heard crying inconsolably “Do we raise our children for them to slaughter?” she questioned.
She added: “Will our suffering come to an end? How long will the blood continue to flow on our roads. Why doesn’t anyone listen to us?”
In yet another clip, a woman while narrating the sequence of events said, “three boys were standing on the road as usual, there was no firing from their side. The J&K police came and fired indiscriminately upon them.”
“They ran through a narrow lane to safety, she said adding the cops chased them and brought them back on road and fires indiscriminately upon them till they breathed their last,” she told media persons with a trembling voice.
Another woman wearing blue “pheran” [woolen cloak] holding an Aadhaar card of deceased with her hands trembling terribly and some mourners gathered around clicking pictures of the card.
Journalists and activists in the Valley while sharing a photo of woman holding identity card of a slain in her hands, wrote a stanza from Agha Shahid’s poem describing the grim situation in Kashmir. “Everyone carries his address in pocket so that at least his body will reach home.”
Following the shootout, the youths hit the roads at several places in Srinagar city and pelted forces with stones who fired tear smoke shells in retaliation resulting to massive clashes between them. As clashes intensified, the authorities suspended the mobile internet services in Srinagar.
Meanwhile, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti has questioned the circumstances that led to the killing of the trio in the gunfight.
“After yesterday’s alleged encounter at Rambagh legitimate doubts are looming over its authenticity. As per reports & witnesses it seems that the firing was one sided. Again the official version far from truth is not in line with ground realities as seen in Shopian, HMT & Hyderpora,” she tweeted.
‘Mehran’s killing – a success’
As per police records, Mehran Yaseen Shalla, a resident of Jamalatta area of old Srinagar, went missing on May 19, 2021 and joined TRF (LeT).
The police statement read: “Mehran Yaseen had a long history of crimes and was wanted by law for his involvement in several crime cases including grenade attack at Barbar Shah Srinagar on 26/06/2021 in which one civilian namely Mudasir Ahmad Bhat resident of Hanjigund Beerwah got killed & three other civilians got critically injured, killing of Meeran Ali Sheikh at Bulbul Lanker Nawa Kadal on 27/07/2021, Killing of PSI Arshad Ahmad at Khanyar on 12/09/2021, Killing of School Principal Supinder Kour and teacher Deepak Chand of Government Higher Secondary School, Khankah Noorbagh Sangam on 07/10/2021.
The other killed militant Arafat Ahmad was also nvolved in several cases including killing of a non-local labour at Litter area of Pulwama on 16/10/2021, a police spokesman claimed.
IGP Kashmir, Vijay Kumar in a statement said that 144 militants were killed this year so far.