At least six people including a government lecturer, a class 4 student and an Imam were killed due to the unprovoked firing by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel on unarmed civilians in the Dharam, Gool, area of Jammu division’s Ramban district, this Thursday. More than 42 got injured in this bloodbath. The civilians were protesting against the desecration of the Holy Quran and beating of a local Imam by the BSF personnel. Unofficial reports suggest that 8 people got killed.
The six persons who were killed have been identified as Farooq Ahmad, son of Ghulam Ahmad of Salballa Gool; Javid Ahmad (a class 4 student), son of Abdul Salam of Goie Dharam Gool; Abdul Latief, son of Abdul Rashid of Jamlan Dharm; and Manzoor Ahmad Shan (a lecturer of Higher Secondary School), son of Abdur Rahman of Gool, Mohammad Amin and Nissar Ahmad. However the death toll may increase further as many people have sustained critical injuries.
According to locals, the protests erupted after a religious preacher (Imam) of a local Madarsa (Madarsa Abdul Latief) was roughed up by BSF personnel on Wednesday night following an argument over offering late night prayers (Namaaz-e-Taraweeh). The locals said that BSF personnel also stormed into the mosque with their shoes on, an act which the Imam denounced as sacrilegious and that they desecrated the copies of the Holy Quran. The locals said that the BSF personnel enquired about the presence of militants in the Darsgah where children get religious education.
“The BSF personnel picked up the Quran and ripped them off and threw them under their feet”, an eyewitness said.
As the news spread, the people from the village and nearby areas held protest demonstrations, this was at around 3am, later they dispersed for Sehri.
Early Thursday morning, at around 5am, hundreds of protesters from Darham and nearby villages surrounded the camp of 76 BSF Battalion, raising pro-Islam and anti-BSF slogans, demanding arrest of the BSF personnel involved in this heinous act. At around 9.30 am, the number of protesters swelled to thousands. By then the senior police officers including SP, DSP besides DC Ramban too had reached the spot.
However, the situation took an ugly turn at around 10.30 am, when according to the eye-witnesses, the Incharge Police Post, Sangaldan, Mohammed Afzal Wani opened indiscriminate fire with his service revolver on the protesters without any warning, which resulted in the killing of one youth identified as Manzoor Ahmed Shan, son of Abdul Rehman Shan, a resident of Gool, on the spot. This agitated the protesters more and they started pelting stones at BSF and the local police, only to get bullets back and more dead around.
One of the eyewitnesses of the Gool massacre alleged that Deputy Commissioner Ramban, Shyam Vinod Meena, told the Border Security Forces personnel to shoot at the civilians.
Ikhlaq Ahmed, an eyewitness said thousands of people were protesting and the BSF opened fire on them once the DC arrived on the spot. “The DC, in front of us, ordered opening of direct fire on protesters that led to the killing of civilians,” he said.
Significantly, IG BSF (Frontier Jammu) Rajeev Krishna, justified killing of six civilians by police and border guards saying “ they opened fire as people tried to take away weapons from the BSF camp”.
Various separatist groups including Hurriyat (G); spearheaded by Syed Ali Shah Geelani has called for a complete shutdown throughout the valley for next three days from today.
Geelani said that the Ramban Incident should invoke a new spirit of freedom movement among us and we should send a clear message to New Delhi that it cannot prolong its illegal occupation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Terming the incident as worst example of state terrorism Geelani said that India is not only murdering Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir but also is at open war with their religion. “It is totally unbearable and to protest against such incident is just as obligatory for Muslims as prayers and fasting are”. “Muslims can tolerate everything but to desecrate Qur’an or hurt their religious sentiments is never acceptable at any cost,” Geelani added.
Fearing the repercussions the government has put up an immediate blanket ban on all mediums of communication including the internet for mobile users to keep the word from getting out.
However when the news reached other parts of valley, protests erupted from every nook and corner of the valley. Protesters were chanting pro-freedom, pro-Islam and anti-India slogans.
Comforting themselves with rhetoric, Indian Home Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde said,”I have ordered an inquiry to be conducted without any loss of time to ascertain the circumstances which led to the firing.”
The state Government has also ordered a magisterial enquiry to determine the exact sequence of events and on the instruction of the Chief Minister a high level team is camping at the spot.
Condemning this incident, Omar Abdullah in a statement said, “It is highly unacceptable to shoot at unarmed protesters just because they were reportedly protesting manhandling of an Imam of their area” said Omar, adding “There is no justification or rationalization of this deplorable act. This shocking act warrants and demands the severest of condemnation in the strongest possible terms,” said Omar. “Justice will be done and those involved in the ghastly incident will be brought to book” he further added.
Meanwhile, government has imposed an undeclared curfew throughout Kashmir valley following the Ramban Massacre thereby adding salt to the wounds of Kashmiris.