Sunday, March 3, 2024

Poonch killing: Mehbooba stages sit-in, says ‘being stopped’ from meeting victim families

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti staged a sit-in on a roadside on 30 December after the police prevented her from meeting the families of three Kashmiri civilians who were found dead due to alleged torture in the custody of the Army.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mufti reached the Pir Panchal valley on Saturday to meet the families at Topa Pir village in Poonch’s Surankote area. However, in a series of videos posted by the PDP on social media, the road to the village was barricaded with barbed wires by the police.

“It seems the administration is trying to hide something. There could be no other reason to stop me. I was told even the women of Topa Pir village were harassed by the security forces and threatened to meet the same treatment as those men seen in the video,” Mufti said.

She has decided to stage a sit-in on a roadside, around five km away from the victims’ village, “till the authorities allow her visit” to meet these families.

Meanwhile, a day earlier, top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders were allowed to meet these families. “We want to meet the families to tend to their wounds, inflicted by these brutal killings. We are not here to create any ruckus. National Conference leaders and BJP leader Ravinder Raina are allowed but not us. Why? We are told there is some threat. I think the biggest threat indeed is these people [who are stopping us],” Mufti said.

Three Kashmiri men – Mohammad Showkat, 22, Safeer Hussain, 45, and Shabir Ahmad, 32 – were detained by the army at the hilly Topa Pir village in Poonch district, a day after suspected militants ambushed army vehicles and killed four Indian army soldiers near the village.

The families said they were shocked after the police called them to take back the bodies of their relatives.

All three victims belong to a tribal community known as Gujjar, who traditionally lead a pastoral life in the mountain areas of Kashmir.

The Indian army said an investigation was under way into the incident. It did not give any details about the detention and death.

The villagers said that eight civilians were detained for questioning by the army, while three are dead, five are admitted to a hospital in Rajouri where they are being treated for physical injuries.

A video of army men sprinkling chilli powder on the private parts of civilians lying on the floor has surfaced on social media. They were identified by the villagers as the men who were detained by the army.

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