Two hospitalized teenage boys who survived when army fired at their car after it allegedly jumped a mobile check point in Budgam district have spoken about the incident that has evoked rage in the conflict-torn Kashmir region.
The injured boys who were fired upon by army soldiers in Chattergam village on Monday evening broke their silence and said they were not warned or asked to surrender before trigger happy troops pumped bullets in to the car and killed two of their teenage friends when they were returning after witnessing a Muharram procession.
School-going boys Zahid Ayoub and Shakir Ahmad Bhat were critically injured when army fired on their car in which they were travelling along with three of their friends Faisal, Mehraj-ud-din Dar and Basim. Faisal and Mehraj were killed while Basim escaped unhurt.
Zahid was hit by a bullet in his right leg while Shakir was hit in shoulder. Both are currently admitted in the army hospital in Srinagar where their condition is said to be stable.
The duo said they were on their way to their house when the incident took place. They told GNS Faisal was driving the car and Basim was sitting with him on the front seat, while Mehraj, who died in the firing, was sitting with them on the back seat.
“We were moving at fast speed and in the meantime, army men directed us to stop by showing their hands and they also whistled,” said Zahid at the army hospital in Srinagar.
He said he was the only one among the five boys who noticed army men ordering them to stop. “I told Faisal that they are directing to stop, but he didn’t understand as we were cracking joke,” the 9th class student said.
“I told him again and he looked backward towards me and in the process, our car brushed a tipper on the right side. But, we were unhurt,” Zahid said.
He said as they started to slow down, three army men approached the car and without uttering a word loaded their guns and started volley of fire on them.“They said nothing before firing indiscriminately. After they showered bullets on us, they came closer to our car and said ‘surrender your weapons’,” he said.
Zahid said that they told army men that they don’t have any weapon. “We told them to search the car,” he said.
After army couldn’t find anything, they took all of them to army hospital in one of their vehicles. Senior police officers and the district magistrate of Srinagar has confirmed the teens had no militant links.
Army had said the teens ignored the order to stop at three check points. “Three motor vehicle check points were established along the route to nab the militants. The car in which these youth were travelling did not stop at two check points when they were flagged down. They even broke through the third barrier leading to the security forces opening firing on them,” the army had said in a statement on Monday evening.
Shakir Ahmad Bhat, who is eleventh-grade Arts student, said he doesn’t know whether army directed them to stop or not as their car brushed the tripper and their attention was diverted. “Army suddenly opened fire. We started to shout: what is happening,” he said.
He said his friends Faisal and Mehraj lost conscious. “We couldn’t later utter a word,” he said, adding: “as if someone had put a lock on our mouths.”
He said another of their friend, Basim, managed to escape unhurt as he alighted as soon as the car stopped.
Both the injured friends said that they didn’t expect army to fire. “We had never thought that army would target us like this.”
“I get nightmares about the incident. I can’t sleep,” Shakir concluded.