The Valley was observing a shutdown today on the call given by separatists against the detention of woman separatist Asiya Andrabi by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Three people, including a 16-year-old girl, were killed when security personnel opened fire on protesters in Kulgam, in South Kashmir, on Saturday, on the eve of militant commander Burhan Wani’s death anniversary. The incident occurred around noon, when army personnel opened fire on stone-throwing protesters at Hawoora-Mishipora village of Qaimoh in Kulgam district.

Five persons were injured, of which three — identified as Shakir Ahmad Khanday (22), Irshad Majeed Lone (20) and Andleeb (15) — died. While Andleeb was a Class VIII student, Lone was in college and Khanday was a labourer.

Police said the army personnel opened fire to “disperse the miscreants”. “An army patrol in District Kulgam, while moving through Hawoora-Mishipora area this afternoon, was pelted (at) by the miscreants. Consequently, the Army tried to disperse the miscreants and, in the process, five individuals sustained injuries,” said a statement released by police.

“The injured persons were evacuated to nearby hospital. However, later three persons succumbed to injuries, including a girl, while two others are stated to be stable. Police have started investigations into the matter,” it said.

Villagers said the protests began after some army personnel reached the area, beat up and detained some youths. Ghulam Ahmad, a resident, said the brother of a militant was beaten up. He alleged that the soldiers also entered a high school in the village and beat up some students and teachers.

“They (army) came in three-four vehicles and started beating up whoever came in their way. They didn’t even spare the students and teachers,” he alleged. “This angered the villagers, and they came out to protest, but the army fired at them directly”.

“They opened indiscriminate fire, targeting the protesters,” claimed Abdul Salam, a resident of Hawoora. The injured were taken to the Primary Health Centre (PHC) at Frisal, where three were declared dead. With the deaths triggering protests in several parts of South Kashmir, the state government suspended mobile internet services in South and Central Kashmir. J&K Governor N N Vohra convened a high-level meeting to review the security situation in the aftermath of the deaths.

“Expressing deep anguish on the loss of civilian lives, including a teenage girl, the Governor reiterated the vital importance of laid-down standard operating procedures (SOP) being most strictly adhered to by Army and all security forces to avoid incidents of civilian casualties and collateral damage even in situations of extreme provocation,” a Raj Bhavan spokesman said.

“The Governor convened a high-level meet to review the security situation in Kashmir Valley, in context of the incident earlier in the day. The Governor had especially invited Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, Northern Army commander, to participate in the discussions,” he said.

The Army said an Area Domination Patrol came under heavy stone pelting in Kulgam’s Hawoora area and as the group tried to withdraw, they were chased by an “aggressive and menacing” crowd of 400-500 people.

“The troops, while exercising extreme restraint, cautioned the stone pelters, who, however, failed to relent and repeatedly threw petrol bombs and stones at the patrolling party. At one point in time, some unidentified terrorists also fired on the column. This resulted in some soldiers receiving grievous injuries,” an Army statement said.

The Army further said in order to ensure their safety, the troops resorted to controlled firing, which resulted in the unfortunate loss of human lives. “The matter is being investigated to ascertain facts on the ground,” it said.