Records from hospitals in the Kashmir Valley suggest that the December 15 operation by the Army and Police resulted in the highest number of civilians hit by bullets and not pellets — 20 out of a total of 32 civilians, of whom seven died — suggesting a violation in SOP (standard operating procedure) followed by security forces.
The incident left seven civilians, three militants and a soldier dead.
All 32 civilians were brought to the Pulwama District Hospital (PDH), and were then referred to other hospitals for specialised treatment.
Hospital records were accessed by The Hindu at four government-run hospitals — the Pulwama District Hospital (PDH) in Pulwama; and the Government Hospital for Bone and Joint Surgery (GHBJS), Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) and Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHSH) in Srinagar — where the injured and dead were registered on December 15.
“Six civilians brought dead to the Pulwama District Hopsital bore at least two bullets, pointing at how the security forces not only fired to chase [away] but to inflict fatalities,” a senior doctor who performed surgeries on the injured at the PDH, told The Hindu. The seventh civilian, Touseef Ahmad Mir, was declared brought dead at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital.
The location of the bullet wounds of the seven dead civilians during the intense clashes that followed the killing of three Hizbul Mujahideen militants by 8 a.m. on Saturday, also pointed at a pattern. Hospital records suggest that deceased Amir Ahmad Paul had bullet wounds in the left groin and chest; Suhail Ahmad in the head and neck; Liyaqat Dar in the head; Touseef Ahmad Mir on the right chest; Aqib Ahmad Bhat in the chest, the abdomen and the head. “All six had bullet injuries in the abdomen, chest, head and neck,” said a doctor.
The bodies were brought in just one-and-a-half hours, starting at 9:05 a.m, at the PDH. “The first hour saw the entire blood bank of 20 pints being consumed by the patients. In next 90 minutes, 50 pints were collected from youth assembled at the hospital to meet the exigency,” said a doctor.
The PDH admitted eight persons with bullet injuries and declared six dead. Srinagar’s SMHSH admitted six, declared one dead, and admitted three others with bullets wounds; the GHBJS in Srinagar admitted seven persons with bullets and SKIMS admitted two injured, one with bullets in the limbs.
“All are stable now,” the doctors said.
For the PDH, admitting and referring 20 bullet-hit civilians was the highest “for a single day” this year in Pulwama, which has witnessed dozens of clashes.
In 2016, when the hospital treated 463 injured in the clashes that followed the killing of militant Burhan Wani, only 40 were hit by bullets. “The Saturday incident was on the higher side for any day since 2016,” said another senior doctor.
Preliminary reports suggest not less than 50 bullets were fired into the crowd lined up in a nearby paddy field and the raised road when the Army and the police were retreating from the operation site.
According to the SOP, it’s the Law and Order component of a Cordon-and-Search-Operation (CASO) team that has to control a mob-like situation before allowing the attack party to return. “The face-off took place when two Army men were injured in the operation and were being shifted. The crowd came dangerously close,” said a police official.
However, police sources admit that the casualties could have been lower if the situation had been handled as it was on November 28, when prominent Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Naveed Jutt was killed along with his associate in Pulwama, not far from the Saturday operation.
The stone throwers left two CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) jawans injured on November 28. One CRPF jawan was hit on the head and was lying on the road for some time. However, the Law and Order component maintained calm and avoided firing bullets into the crowd despite grave provocations,” said a police official.
Deputy Commissioner Pulwama, G.M. Dar, told The Hindu, “Facts will emerge once the Divisional Commissioner-headed committee files its report. he police have also filed an FIR. It will also establish the facts.”