A suspect arrested by the police in connection with Thursday’s grenade attack at Jammu’s main bus stand that left two people dead is a juvenile studying in class 9, his family and neighbours said on Friday. The family claimed the boy was innocent. The police said they were verifying the claims.
“He studies in class 9 and is just 14. Woh masoom bacha hai [He is an innocent child]. He has never stepped outside [the Kashmir Valley],” said his tearful mother.
Two persons, including a teenager, were killed and 31 others injured in a grenade blast at the crowded General Bus Stand in the heart of Jammu city on Thursday morning.
Within hours, the police arrested a suspect at a toll plaza who they said was from south Kashmir. Jammu inspector general of police (IGP) Manish Kumar Sinha said the police were able to identify the suspect based on the “oral testimony of the witnesses and the CCTV footage”.
A resident of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, the minor had left home on Tuesday afternoon to visit his maternal hometown, Nanihal. He called his mother on Wednesday seeking the contact number of a relative studying in Jammu.
“He left Nanihal and told his grandmother that he is going home but he did not reach home till [Wednesday] evening. Yesterday [Thursday] we saw his name in the news. He is just 14. I appeal to the governor sahib — please have mercy. He is innocent. He has done nothing wrong. He would go to school and return,” another relative said with folded hands.
The Jammu IGP said that after sustained questioning, the suspect “confessed to his crime and revealed that he was tasked with throwing the grenade by Farooq Ahmed Bhat alias Umar, a district commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen in Kulgam district.” Hizb’s operational spokesman, Burhan-u-Din, in a statement, said the group’s leadership had condemned the Jammu blast, and accused official agencies of defaming the “freedom struggle”, a euphemism for militancy.
A neighbour of the suspect said that he could vouch for the boy. “He is a good boy. We never saw him going anywhere... the charges of grenade lobbing against him are wrong. He had no inclination towards anything like this,” he said.
Another neighbour claimed that the boy would have “confessed under pressure from police”.
“He is an innocent boy. There is no way he could have withstood the pressure of the police,” he said.
The suspect is the eldest of his three siblings and their father is a daily wage-earner.
The senior superintendent of police in Kulgam, Gurinderpal Singh, said that he had asked all police stations in the region to check if they had any details on the boy and whether he had any role to play in stone pelting or militancy. “We are in the process of checking his credentials. We are also verifying claims that he is a juvenile,” Singh said.