21-yr-old Kashmiri Killed for Demanding Electricity

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Srinagar, Jan 2: A 21-year-old youth was killed and two others injured in Indian administered Kashmir when Indian paramilitary Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF) soldiers fired on a group of people, who were demanding electricity.

The killing sparked massive protests, prompting authorities to register a case against the soldiers and detain five of them.

The residents of Boniyar in North Kashmir said hundreds of residents of Boniyar gathered near the main gate of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) – an Indian power company that harnesses the mountain rivers of Kashmir to generate power but sells much of it to the rest of India, much to the annoyance of the local population.

NHPC provides 12 percent of total power generated from Kashmir Rivers free of cost to the local government as a royalty. The remainder is sold in Kashmir and elsewhere at market rates.

The locals were protesting against the non-availability of electricity in the area. “The protestors were staging a peaceful demonstration and were chanting slogans against the Kashmir government and NHPC. Suddenly, the paramilitary CISF personnel guarding the main gate of NHPC came out on the road and started firing on demonstrators at around 1315 hours. It caused panic among the people, who ran helter skelter to escape the bullets. During this process a 21-year-old youth, Altaf Ahmad Sood was hit by a bullet in the chest. He died on the spot. Two others also sustained injuries in the firing incident and have been hospitalized,” they said.

A top police officer of the area while confirming the incident said five paramilitary personnel deployed near the main gate of NHPC have been arrested.

The arrestees have been identified as Sub-Inspector Krishan Thapa, Havaldar Dwarka Prashad, Constable Raju Ranjan, Constable Ajay Singh and Constable Mohammad Shabir.

The police officer said further investigations are going on.

After the firing incident, tension gripped the Boniyar area and hundreds of people irrespective of age and sex took to roads and protested against CISF personnel.

Chanting anti-CISF and anti-NHPC slogans, the protestors were demanding severe punishment to the CISF personnel responsible for killing a civilian and injuries two others.

Uri, Boniyar and other areas observed a complete shutdown against the CISF firing.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of the region Omar Abdullah said no protection under controversial AFSPA will be considered for the CISF personnel.

“5 arrests have been made and a case registered against the troopers,” Omar wrote on twitter.

He said no protection under AFSPA will be considered since they weren’t on counter-insurgency deployment.

In another development a senior minister of the Kashmir government Taj Mohiuddin told a local news gathering agency that the death of a youth is a simple case of murder as CISF personnel came out of their camp and opened fire on protesters.

He said, “There is no need to hold inquiry into the incident as it is a simple case of murder.”

Meanwhile, an official spokesman said the government has taken up the matter with Indian Home Ministry and lodged serious protest and demanded stern exemplary action against the delinquent officers.

Protests over electricity – a highly political issue in Kashmir – have erupted over the past few days following blackouts because of power-generation problems. The power generation has fallen considerably, prompting the concerned department to resort to lengthy power cuts.