The Centre’s special representative to Jammu and Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, on Wednesday asked security forces in the state to “show restraint” in the Valley, the Hindustan Times reported. “Civilian killings must stop,” Sharma said.

The interlocutor’s remarks came days after two militants and four civilians were killed in an alleged encounter in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on March 4.

The Army said the civilians killed in the encounter were “OGWs” or overground workers – a term used to refer to non-combatants who provide logistical support for militant groups. However, the victims’ families contested the Army’s allegation that they were accomplices. The killings have led to rising tension in the region.

Sharma told the Hindustan Times, “Security forces must show restraint and not resort to disproportionate firing.”

“I was hoping for a better summer but violence has come as a setback,” said the former Intelligence Bureau chief, adding that among the south Kashmir districts, Shopian was “particularly alienated and angry”. He said, “We must be sensitive while dealing with the people of Kashmir.”

Ever since his appointment as an interlocutor on October 23, 2017, Sharma has visited the state five times – his latest trip was to Shopian on February 24. This visit came after three civilians were killed in Army firing in January 27. The Army claimed it killed the civilians in “self defence”, but witnesses said the killings were targeted at some people who had put up a black flag near the site of an encounter where a militant was killed.

The encounter

The March 4 encounter took place around 8 pm in Shopian’s Pahnoo village. An initial statement by the Army said it was “retaliatory firing” that killed one militant and three “OGW/accomplices”. Two more bodies were found on Monday morning, and the police said one of the bodies was that of a militant.

On Monday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also referred to those who died in the encounter as “civilians caught in the crossfire”. In the Pinjoora and Pahnoo hamlets, residents protested demanding that the Army camp in Pinjoora be moved.