Villagers allege Kashmir teacher Shabir Ahmed killed in Army’s custody, 18 others injured in clashes with security forces

SRINAGAR: A young college teacher in Kashmir was killed while he was in the custody of the Indian army after soldiers took dozens of people from their homes in the tense Himalayan region, residents said Thursday.

The villagers said army soldiers and counterinsurgency police officers raided Khrew village late Wednesday and took Shabir Ahmed and around 30 other people into custody.

They handed over Ahmed’s body to his family early Thursday, the villagers said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals.

A police official confirmed Ahmed’s death but said the troops were responding to anti-India protests in the area.

The police official, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity, said at least 25 people, including Ahmed’s brother, were reported injured.

Army spokesman Col. Nitin N. Joshi said the cause of the death was being investigated.

Large protests against army presence in Kashmir and violent clashes with police and paramilitary soldiers have occurred daily since government troops killed a popular rebel leader Burhan Wani nearly six weeks ago. A strict curfew and a series of communications blackouts have failed to stop the protests, even as residents have struggled to cope with shortages of food, medicine and other necessities.

At least 20 civilians were reported injured as government forces fired bullets, pellets and tear gas to stop rock-throwing protesters at two places in northern Bandipore and Kupwara areas, police said.

As part of the intensified security clampdown, fuel depots have stopped petrol and diesel supplies to dealers in Srinagar, the region’s main city, and other towns, said Bilal Ahmed, a spokesman of the Kashmir Valley Petroleum Dealers Association.

Dealers were already facing a shortage in supplies due to the curfew and lockdown, he said.

Government authorities refused to comment.

“It is a sensitive issue and (we) can’t discuss it publicly,” said Hari Anupam, a senior official of Indian Oil Corporation.

As protesting crowds have grown sometimes to tens of thousands, the protesters have resorted to pelting soldiers, and police with rocks and government forces have responded with bullets and shotgun pellets. At least 62 civilians and two policemen have died, and thousands of civilians and hundreds of members of various government security forces have been injured.

Police and soldiers have been accused of ransacking houses and beating residents to intimidate Kashmiri protesters. Authorities say the troops only respond to restore law and order.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in its entirety by both. Most Kashmiris are Muslim and want an end to rule by Hindu-majority India, instead favoring independence or a merger with Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in the subsequent Indian military crackdown.

A lecturer was killed and 18 others were injured in clashes between security forces and protesters who were opposing a search operation in Khrew area of Pulwama district in Kashmir where curfew and restrictions remained in force for the 41st day on Thusday.

Shabir Ahmad Monga, a contractual lecturer, died when he and several others were beaten up at Khrew late last night, a police official said.

He said 18 other persons, mostly youths, have been admitted to a hospital here.

According to the locals, army conducted house to house searches for the youths who were leading protests in the area late last night which was resisted by the residents of Khrew. In the ensuing clash, 30-year-old Monga died.

An army official said they were collecting details about the incident and will soon issue a statement.

Curfew remained in force in entire Srinagar district, Anantnag town and Pampore police station, which includes Khrew area, while restrictions continued on the movement of the people in rest of the Valley.

Normal life has been paralysed in the Valley due to street protests since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8.

Heavy deployment of security forces has been carried out in Srinagar city with all roads leading to the local office of United Nations Military Observers Group (UNMOG) at Sonawar sealed.

The authorities strictly imposed night curfew in the city in view of the separatists’ call for march to the UN office over a 72-hour period beginning yesterday.

Schools, colleges and private offices remained closed while public transport remained off the roads due to the strike called by the separatists.

The attendance in government offices was thin. Mobile Internet and mobile telephony services across the valley remained suspended.

However, broadband services were restored early this morning after five days.

Broadband services and mobile telephone services were snapped Saturday evening.

As many as 64 persons including two police personnel have been killed and several thousand injured in the clashes that began on July 9.