Police brutalize Hazratbal residents
Cops Fire On Devotees, Ransack Houses, Abuse SHO
Srinagar, Aug 19: As if beating devotees inside the Hazratbal shrine was not enough, police Thursday unleashed a reign of terror in the area by firing upon the peaceful protesters and breaking windowpanes of dozens of houses and vehicles. Police also cane charged the protesters, injuring many of them.
The police action came barely a few minutes after the locals claimed to have recovered playing cards inside the shrine and started raising pro-freedom slogans there. The residents thronged the shrine after the six-day long stalemate “temporarily ended” following their hectic negotiations with the government.
‘PLAYING CARDS RECOVERED’:
“After the stalemate ended, we visited the shrine to be a part of its cleaning process,” said the residents. “But to our shock, we recovered a set of playing cards from the upper gallery of the shrine.”
The resident accused the policemen of armed police, manning the shrine, of playing cards there. “We can tolerate anything but not any unethical activity inside the shrine,” they said, raising pro-freedom slogans from the shrine microphones.
As the news spread, police fired dozens of rounds on the protesters outside the shrine to disperse them. No bullet injuries were however reported. But minutes after the firing, policemen barged into different localities with bamboo sticks and broke the windowpanes of dozens of houses and vehicles. This scared the residents, particularly women and children, who accused police of unleashing a reign of terror.
“Police is meant to secure people and ensure their safety in times of need. But here they are terrorizing people in this holy month of Ramadan. It is highly condemnable,” said Shams, a resident. “The government must take action against the policemen involved in the heinous crime. The matter must be probed thoroughly.”
Police also beat up several people including women in Dhobi Mohalla and ransacked many houses, triggering a scuffle. “We were beaten ruthlessly,” said the residents. “Men of armed police barged into our houses and started beating women and children. Many protesters sustained injuries.” Windowpanes of several vehicles were also broken.
On Thursday, the stalemate “temporarily ended” when the government, in a fresh round of talks with the residents, agreed to fulfill their demands including transfer of policemen involved in Saturday’s police action and removal of barracks from the shrine complex in a phased manner.
“Though a majority of youth were not with the decision of phased removal of barracks, but keeping in view the holy month of Ramadan, the stalemate had to be ended. But the police terror followed and aggravated the crisis,” the residents said.
On Wednesday, the senior superintendent of police (Srinagar), Ashiq Bukhari, had “added fuel to the fire” by openly refusing to remove the police barracks while the Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Meraj Ahmad Kakroo, had sought time to meet the demand. On Thursday, strict curfew was clamped in the area following Muslim Waqf Board’s announcement that it would clean the shrine to resume the prayers. While no local was with the Board’s announcement, the SSP’s diktat and the announcement had infuriated the residents.
COPS ‘ABUSE’ SHO:
The station house officer of Police Station Nigeen was abused and his vehicle attacked by personnel of armed police after he asked them not to open fire on the protesters.
Witnesses said at least 30 personnel caught hold of the SHO and his escort and stated hurling abuses at them. Confirming the armed police action, a senior police official, insisting not to be named, said, “The armed policemen tried to aim a Light Machine Gun at the protesters. The SHO and his men caught hold of the LMG and aimed it in the air following which over 100 rounds were used. The armed personnel abused the SHO for saving the protesters. Had he not caught hold of the gun, the armed cops would have killed scores of people.”
The official said the armed cops were “frustrated” on seeing that the locals won by getting them transferred from the area. “It is sheer frustration on part of the armed cops. They attacked SHO’s vehicle as well. We request the government to get the matter probed,” he said.
According to sources, SHO Nigeen Hazratbal has registered and FIR against the armed police for highhandedness.
NO PRAYERS FOR 6TH DAY:
Meanwhile no prayers were held in the shrine for the 6th consecutive day. People continued to offer the five-time congregational prayers either on road or inside their houses. This is for the second time in the history that no prayers could be offered in the shrine. Earlier it had happened during the month-long Hazratbal siege in 1993. The curbs on prayers evoked severe criticism from different political and non-political quarters.
Meanwhile, the area continued to be tense following police action on protesters.
No police officer agreed to speak on the issue. However, the entire episode happened at a time when the Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Meraj Ahmad Kakroo, was in Hazratbal to hold talks with the residents.
According to a spokesman of J&K Muslim Waqf Board, Gusul (cleaning) ceremony of Asar-i-Sharief, Hazratbal was performed before Zuhar prayers as per the agreement made earlier in presence of Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Mehraj Ahmad Kakroo and Superintendent of Police, Srinagar.
The ceremony was performed amidst Darood Khawani in which large number of respectables and people of adjoining areas participated. On this occasion, Vice Chairman, Muslim Waqf Board, M Y Qadri, Secretary of Waqf Board and other Waqf officials were present.
The spokesman said during Gusul Khawani, some boys came down from the balcony with two playing card leaves in their hands and attempted to create confusion. “They also forced people to move out. Obviously, this seems to be a deliberate attempt to deprive people from offering prayers in the Dargah Sharief on one pretext or another pretext,” the spokesman said.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 19 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 19 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 20 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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