Protests erupted at SMHS Hospital here after police asked the volunteers to close their activities of providing free food and medicines to the patients and their attendants who were otherwise facing severe crisis in absence of any help from the government amid curfew.
"Police this morning asked us to close down all voluntary activities and not to provide food and medicines to the injured and other needy people," a group of volunteers told Greater Kashmir.
They added that as the news spread, large number of attendants and locals came on main road and staged an anti-government protest.
"This is height of highhandedness. They use bullets and pellets on peaceful protestors and then block all ways to deny them any assistance in hospitals by the locals," they rued.
They said that most injured are from south and north Kashmir, adding, "Their family members are not here. Attendants are running short of money and they need help from the volunteers. We are doing our bit at least to provide them some food and medicines on humanitarian basis."
Working tirelessly from past 12 days, around 300 volunteers are providing free medicines and food to patients and their attendants at the SMHS Hospital.
The volunteers have distributed themselves in various groups. Some of them are distributing medicines, some food and drinking water while others carry injured persons for undertaking diagnostic tests.
"A police party came this morning and asked us to vacate the makeshift tents and not to carry any relief work," said a group of volunteers.
A group of attendants said: "It is an effort by authorities to leave the injured to fend for themselves. Does government want injured persons to succumb due to lack of medicines which otherwise these volunteers are providing them free of cost and also want attendants to die of hunger?"
They said that police 'warned' voluntary organizations of dire consequences in case they continue to carry relief operations in the premises of hospital.
"We have never seen such dictatorship where victims of conflict are denied to have access to the relief and volunteers threatened to not extend any sort of help to the pellet and bullet injured," they added.
The volunteers have been distributing food, clothes and medicines to attendants and patients. In some cases, they also offer financial assistance to needy. In case medicines are not available with them, they purchase them from market and provide them to needy.
Despite 'warning and threats' from the authorities, the volunteers continued their efforts to help needy.
"Some officials are claiming that government has ordered providing of free food to the injured and have also released some amount for the purpose. If true, but it cannot be an excuse to stop volunteers to perform their activities on humanitarian grounds," said one of the injured, wishing not to be named.
He added that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was all praise for the local youth who rescued Amarnath pilgrims when they met a road accident in south Kashmir a few days ago.
"Is it that local youth will be praised for rescuing and helping tourists and pilgrims but will be threatened in case they help their own people who need it most at present juncture," said a group of youth at SMHS.
Minister of State for Health, Asiea Naqash told Greater Kashmir that she has no knowledge about the voluntary activities at SMHS hospital.
"I don't have any knowledge about it. I am also unaware about any police action, advice or what you call threat. But I can tell you that if police have done something like that, it would be in public interest," she said.
"Government is providing injured and their attendants free medicines and food. There is no need that anyone should also do it," she said while replying to a query.
Asked local youth rescuing pilgrims and receiving praise from CM but receiving 'threats' in case they help local injured, she said: "Please don't drag me more on the matter. I have said whatever I had to."
She also twisted the reply when asked if government has any objection against the activities of volunteers at SMHS Hospital, saying: "Government is doing (providing food and medicines to patients) what it is supposed to do. I don't think anyone else should do it."
She refused to respond to the query whether volunteers are helping government by helping the injured.
Concerned police station couldn't be contacted for comments as the official landline of police station was out of service.