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School children attacked in Sonarvani
Late on 10 August, Tanvir, a 16-year-old student, was fatally wounded when soldiers fired on a group of schoolchildren at Sonarvani village near Bandipora some 60 km from Srinagar. Two others were injured, including Naza Bano, a girl in class V11, who was shot in the leg. The children, students of the government higher secondary school in Mathrigam, were returning from a picnic. Their bus had broken down and it was after 10 pm when they arrived at a BSF post 2 km away. Despite being told there had been gunfire in Sonarvani, the headmaster insisted on going through, according to a report in The Times of
The government claims that when the bus arrived in the village, a pitched battle was going on between the army and militants and the children were hit in ‘cross-fire.’ Hurriyat leaders, however, allege the students were deliberately shot. Between these two extremes lies a more complex story.
At about 10 pm the army had indulged in uncontrolled firing in the village, either in panicky response to some unexplained noise or to deter militants who might be in the surrounding hills from attacking. They were nervous because militants had entered their camp 30 July killing four.
However, the village was quiet when the bus arrived at 10:45 pm. It was raining heavily. The headmaster told the students to hurry home. As they moved away, they were ordered by soldiers in a nearby bunker to approach with their hands raised. Azad, a 1X class student, described what followed: ‘We said we were students and showed our IDs. The soldiers said: OK, go. Since we were nervous, we ran. An army patrol opened fire on us from a distance and then another bunker some 100 metres away realized what was happening, they started screaming: ‘Stop shooting. These are children.’ Said a shopkeeper: ‘Had they not started shouting, all the kids would have been killed’.
Though the villagers seemed more upset with the headmaster than the army, the events of August 10 have made them angry. Gulzar Khan, a civilian employee of the army, pointed out more than 20 bullet holes in his house. ‘The army was firing blindly. Had we been upstairs, we would have been killed’. ‘Till now, no boy from this village has become a militant,’ said a neighbor. ‘But if things go on like this, even old people will pick up a gun.’
According to the TOI report, no bureaucrat has bothered to come and apologize, let alone high government officials, in sharp contrast to what would have happened in any other part of the country.q