EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT:Thousands march on Srinagar-Varmul highway
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: PROTESTERS
Srinagar, June 28: On Monday the scene on the Srinagar-Varmul highway was reminiscent of the 2008 Amarnath land row uprising. People in hundreds, especially youth, were seen moving towards Sopur, peacefully, though furious over the killing of three boys in the apple town. With each step the procession was swelling as bikers and marchers joined in, chanting pro-freedom slogans.
The water-offering scene by men and women all along the highway up to Lawaypora was no different than the largest march—“Muzaffarabad Chalo”—called by the separatists and fruit growers in August 2008 to seek opening of alternative routes to Kashmir valley. This time the parallel factions of Hurriyat Conference had called for “Sopur Chalo” to protest against the killing of the youth by CRPF in the town.
One of the otherwise busiest highways of the state, which connects Uri and Varmul in north Kashmir having largest deployment of the Army, was taken over by the protestors. There were blockades on the highway after every 100 meter, the worn-out tyres and wooden logs were in flames.
“Enough is enough. We should all come out on roads and seek a permanent solution,” shouted a boy in his early twenties towards his companions. He identified himself as Umar, BA Ist year student from Safa Kadal. “People from different areas of city, downtown and peripheries marched separately and joined in at Qamarwari,” he said.
There was no policeman or CRPF trooper visible on the road and the Parimpora police station wore a deserted look. Even a water tanker perhaps called by police to try and disperse the procession near bypass was called off and the procession passed on peacefully.
However the situation changed when people reached near Hokersar wetland. A huge contingent of police had been kept ready to prevent the march from moving forward. They had blocked the road with concertina wire, drop-gates, and heavy vehicles.
Unmoved, the procession tried to proceed. Sensing trouble, a huge contingent of police, led by the SSP Srinagar fired teargas shells in air to try and disperse the protest march, though unsuccessfully. They even arrested some youth and political activists who were leading the march, eyewitnesses said. But people tried to move forward. Police ultimately resorted to aerial firing which was responded with stone pelting by the protestors.
“A few bullets hit some youth resulting in injury to them. One youth was hit in arm and other in leg. One of them is from Kawadara. We don’t know anything about their condition,” said another youth, Mushtaq Ahmad. He along with a group of youth ran across the paddy fields for protection as aerial firing continued for some time. Another group of youth moved in from the opposite direction across the road and engaged police, now joined by paramilitary CRPF troopers, in stone pelting.
“Don’t return. Don’t be afraid. Keep moving forward,” a group of bikers were shouting. Within no time ambulances from Srinagar and Varmul side started to move to and fro on the road and the rush continued till late afternoon. A few youth entered into a local Masjid and appealed the locals to keep the doors and windows of the houses open in case of an emergency. “We will give you place in our hearts. Allah is your saviour,” a group of women were crying after hearing the news about the injuries. Unconfirmed reports said at least 10 to 12 youth were injured in police action in the area.
As protestors, stone pelting youth kept police engaged from Srinagar side, a separate protest moved towards the police from the opposite Narbal side. Police resorted to aerial firing and succeeded in dispersing the youth from Varmul side, and moved backward.
For a moment there was complete silence. “Police has returned. Keep moving forward,” shouted one biker. But the brief lull was broken by some bullet shots. Moments later an ambulance carrying an injured was seen rushing towards city.
“The main procession reached near Narbal but they were again interrupted by police. Firing and teargas shelling is going on,” a group of bikers who were returning said.
As the protestors near Umarabad, Lawaypora, tried to assemble again, a cavalcade of police and CRPF carrying heavy contingent of forces approached from Srinagar. Dispersing the youth the vehicles stopped near oil filling station at Omarabad. They took a U-turn and started returning in a bid to chase the protestors. For a brief moment the youth showed stiff resistance, pelted stones, burnt worn-out tyres and blocked road to prevent the forces from moving forward. However, the police joined by CRPF troopers resorted to teargas shelling and aerial firing to disperse the protestors who were pelting stones. The vehicles kept moving forward.
By late afternoon, small groups of youth, and bikers had started to return. “The procession has been stopped by police at Narbal. They are not allowing people to move forward,” said Suhail Ahmad, who had returned from the spot. There was no vehicular moment on the road. Women continued to offer water and juices. “Kashmir is once again burning. There is no guarantee to anybody’s life. Only Allah can save us,” said Khateeja while offering juice to some media persons.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 28 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 28 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 29 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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