The Indian Army said in a statement that residents of Pulwama took out a long candlelight march on March 3 late at night to protest the alleged use of a mosque by terrorists during an encounter in south Kashmir’s Potgampora area.
“The protestors numbering upto hundreds condemned the use of Mosque by terrorists & maligning its sacredness & called on those who were supporting such acts,” read the statement from the Army. According to a previous statement from the Army, terrorists from The Resistance Front (TRF) were holed up inside a mosque in the Pampore area during the encounter on February 27.
Two terrorists, one of them was responsible for the recent murder of Kashmiri Pandit Sanjay Sharma, were neutralised during the exchange of fire with the security forces.
Sepoy Pawan, a soldier, was also martyred during the operation.
“Braving the rains, the residents of Potgampora turned up in large numbers to organise a candlelight march to register their strong protest against blatant & shameless use of holy precincts of Jamia Masjid to perpetrate terror activities as was witnessed recently,” the Army added in its statement.
They expressed their respect for Sepoy Pawan, “the brave soldier who was martyred in action during the operation”, and they acknowledged the Indian Army’s efforts in “preserving the sanctity of the Mosque and saving civilian lives despite the threat to own” the statement added.
“Ensuring the sanctity of the mosque, the security forces closed in and appealed to the terrorists to surrender. The terrorists, however, opened indiscriminate fire on security forces and used civilians in the target area as a shield to escape when cornered. The security forces displayed utmost restraint and evacuated civilians praying inside the mosque, preventing any collateral damage,” read a statement issued earlier by the Defence PRO.
The Army, in their statement, said that the “protest indicates a changed atmosphere wherein the locals are shunning violence and registering their protest against those inimical elements of the society, who for their profit are upsetting the peaceful environment”.
In the encounter on February 27, the security forces fired with extreme caution to preserve the sacred precincts while neutralising one terrorist on the spot.
The second terrorist fled and hid in an adjacent building housing locals. In the ensuing firefight that lasted several hours, the security forces not only neutralised the second terrorist but also evacuated all the civilians trapped inside the building.