NASEER A GANAI
Srinagar: In Kashmir both the civil administration and security forces are quick to react to any traffic blockade.
On February 14, 2001, a JKLF activist Jaleel Ahmad Shah of Haigam Sopur was killed by troops allegedly in custody, a charge denied by police. Following day the residents of Haigam blocked the Srinagar-Varmul highway demanding the body of Shah. As police was pacifying the protesters, troops appeared on the scene, opening fire on people. Five persons were killed and 10 injured. The killings evoked strong reaction forcing the government to appoint one-man commission of Justice O.P Sharma to inquire into the incident.
The army counsel argued before the commission that the crowd had violated the prohibitory orders issued by the district magistrate Varmul vide order number 60 of 2001 wherein section 144 CrPc was promulgated in the district and no assembly or congregation of more than five persons and procession without permission of the district magistrate is allowed. He argued that crowd was violent and describing the firing from army ‘in defence’ saying “a fire from crowd prompted the firing.”
The villagers and eyewitnesses through their counsel however denied any sort of violent agitation. The counsel of the villagers argued that demonstrations were peaceful and against alleged custodial killing of Jalil Ahmad Shah. The witnesses said no stone was pelted on the troops by protesters.
In its findings, Justice O.P Sharma maintained that firing had become imperative in view of the law and order situation and the personal defence of the troops. Holding the villagers guilty of violating the prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPc and of taking law in their own hands, causing inconvenience to the people traveling on the highway, Justice Sharma held the civilian administration responsible for not clearing the roadblock. Justice Sharma observed that the crowd was guilty of criminal offence under section 341 and 341 of Ranbir Penal Code for unlawful assembly.
The family members of those killed in the incident and injured rejected the finding of the commission and said the findings were not based on what was deposed by the eyewitnesses and police officials. They demanded appointment of another judge to probe the incident, which the NC government at that time didn’t accept.