Police, Mehbooba, Akther, blame ‘miscreants’ for disruption, 12 arrested
Several people including some foreigners and cops were injured Sunday when the much-hyped ‘Big Kashmir Marathon’ organized by BIG 92.7 FM Srinagar turned into a battle-ground where ‘azadi’ slogans reverberated and clashes between youth and police followed.
As the participants gathered at KU ground—the venue for the event titled “Run For Change”—a group of youth resorted to massive pro-freedom and pro-Pakistan sloganeering, witnesses said.
Adil Rashid, who was part of the Marathon, said the group of youth also waved Pakistani flags during the event.
The event, according to its organizers, was divided into two segments: ‘Half Marathon’ and ‘Run for Fun’.
“After both the events concluded, we were waiting for the prize
distribution ceremony. A few minutes before it was scheduled to start, some youth started shouting pro-freedom slogans and lobbed mineral water bottles towards the podium and within no time, it was pandemonium around,” Rashid said. “All participants including foreigners ran for cover as water bottles were raining towards the podium from all directions.”
Ramez Ahmed, another eyewitness said, youth “ransacked” refreshment kiosks and hurled mineral water bottles and other stuff towards the stage. “They were shouting pro-freedom slogans. Even the Minister for PHE and Irrigation, Sukhnandan, who was present on the stage to distribute prizes among winners, took shelter behind the stage,” he said.
Secretary Tourism Farooq Ahmed Shah, SSP Srinagar Amit Kumar and officials of Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA), were also present on the occasion and ran for safety, Ahmad said.
The race was to start from Naseem Bagh and culminate near SKICC on The Boulevard Road.
Some participants of the marathon, however, asserted there was a scuffle between Nigerian athletes and locals near the mausoleum of National Conference founder Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah at Habak, first.
Police, according to witnesses, resorted to lathi-charge at the venue to disperse protesters.
“It was total chaos. There were pro-freedom slogans going all around. Everyone was running for cover,” they said.
Soon after the mess up at the event, police issued a statement saying the “sporting event attracted a huge gathering mostly of youth besides international marathoners and a large number of locals.”
“The race was flagged off as scheduled and the function was going on smoothly till some miscreants within the crowd started passing obscene and lewd comments at girl participants and those in the audience. The incidents of passing remarks were also witnessed at Habbak Crossing. Instances of molestation of girls by rowdy elements were reported at venue and en-route,” the spokesman claimed.
He said: “FIRs have been registered into the incidents of molestation and eve-teasing at Police Station Nigeen and 12 miscreants involved in molestation and eve-teasing have been arrested so far.”
Superintendent of Police Hazratbal, Rayees Ahmed, said everything was going as per the plan. “Some miscreants resorted to eve-teasing and passed some obscene comments at women participants,” he told Greater Kashmir.
He claimed few youth passed obscene comments at girls before the flag off ceremony. “After the flag-off event, similar incident was reported at Habbak where police intervened and detained a few youth. This triggered stone-pelting from the crowd,” he said. “When the race was won by three foreigners and the stage was set for prize distribution, the youth started vandalizing the stage. The youth hurled mineral water bottles and tore down hoardings and signboards of the marathon.”
He said the “miscreants were later driven out of the venue.”
“12 youth are in police custody and booked under section 294 CRPC (eve teasing and molestation),” he said.
He said all the 12 youth had “registered themselves with the marathon.”
On waving of Pakistan flags at the marathon, the SP said: “We are looking into all angles.”
On number of injured, he said, a few foreigners, locals and “at least 11 cops” got injured in the clashes.
“The police exercised maximum restraint. We didn’t fire even a single tear gas shell inside the venue,” the SP said.
Sources, however, said youth resorted to massive clashes outside the venue in which some two dozen youth got injured. “At least 30 people including policemen got injured in the clash,” they said.
Big 92.7 FM Srinagar—the main organizer of the event—said both events “concluded successfully.”
“The international event ‘half marathon’ was for 21 kms from Naseem Bagh to SKICC and back. This was won by foreigners. As far the ‘Run for Fun’, some 30,000 locals had registered with us,” said Muzaffar Shah, station head of Big 92.7 FM Srinagar. Pertinently, the marathon was organized by Big 92.7 FM along with the active support of PHE Ministry of the state government.
Shah said Big 92.7 FM Srinagar “suffered huge losses due the disruption caused by the miscreants.”
Expressing dismay over the “reported highhandedness by some youth with the female participants at the international half-marathon this morning”, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said “such a rowdy behavior is unacceptable in a civilized society. The State’s civil society should rise against such unruly behavior where our daughters are being dishonored by misguided disruptive elements.”
She said the “objective of the marathon was to create awareness about various social issues including importance of following road traffic regulations, conservation of water bodies, keeping environment clean, and respecting elders.”
“I don’t know what was wrong with this marathon and why the youth tried not only disrupt it, but also humiliate the female participants both from within and outside the state,” she said in a statement. “Such acts only bring bad name to the society and the institutions.”
Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar, strongly condemned the “hooliganism” by some youth “during the flag-off ceremony of Big Marathon.”
“Despite desperate attempts by some disruptive elements to sabotage the great event, around 15000 people, including some international athletes, participated in the maiden marathon,” Akther said in a statement here. “This should prove an eye-opener for those rowdy elements who are hell-bent upon subverting any attempt of revival of normalcy and rejuvenation of sagging economy in Kashmir. Time has come for the Kashmir’s civil society and emancipated citizens to rise against acts of such hooliganism which have put the whole society to shame.”
Akhtar said the “reported highhandedness by the unruly youth with some female participants is the most deplorable and reprehensible act and the law of land must catch up with such boisterous elements.”