NEW DELHI: Two youths were killed on Tuesday in firing by the Indian army on protesters after they had gathered against an alleged molestation bid by a soldier in Jammu and Kashmir’s Handwara town.

The Indian Express said the army had ordered an inquiry into the killing of the youths, including a budding cricketer. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said such incidents had “negative impact” on the government’s efforts for peace.

The decision of holding an inquiry was conveyed by Lt Gen D.S. Hooda, who heads the strategic Udhampur-based Northern Command, to the chief minister after she called him to ascertain the situation on the ground.

One of the two youths killed was a budding cricketer who had attended an Under-19 cricket camp three years ago. Nayeem Bhat, a student of Government Degree College Handwara, died when army opened fire to disperse a stone-pelting mob which was protesting against alleged molestation of a girl in the town, the Express said.

Protests erupt in Srinagar and Handwara after allegations of molestation

It said tension gripped Handwara where the villagers were protesting against a soldier who, on duty, allegedly tried to molest a girl near a washroom in the main town.

The news of the incident sparked protests in the town. The villagers were demanding arrest of the army personnel involved in the molestation. Locals said that army opened fire on the protesting villagers that left four youths injured.

While one youth died on the spot, the other succumbed to injuries in the hospital.

An Indian army official, while expressing regret at the loss of lives, said the matter will be investigated and anybody found guilty will be dealt with as per the law.

The incident in Handwara had an echo in Srinagar and also in Pulwama where protests erupted and stone-pelting incidents were reported at some places, the official said.

Political parties like National Conference and Congress, expressed grief and shock over deaths and called for an inquiry.

Hurriyat Conference headed by hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani gave a call for shutdown on Wednesday, the Express said.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2016