PDP comes on streets for demilitarization, repealing of AFSPA
Green flag installed on clock tower at Lalchowk; 15 injured in baton charge
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Apr 26: Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) today came out on the streets to press its trademark demand of withdrawal of troops and revocation of Jammu & Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) even as over a dozen of its activists suffered minor injuries when Police made unsuccessful attempts to disperse a rally in the summer capital. Shouting slogans against human rights abuse by the Indian security forces, PDP activists installed a green colour flag on the clock tower at historic Lalchowk.
PDP President Mehbooba Mufti led a rally of her party activists from Sher-e-Kashmir Park while shouting slogans on public address system and carrying banners for resolution of the Kashmir dispute, ending human rights abuse by the Indian security forces in Kashmir, withdrawal of troops and revocation of AFSPA. All through the march towards Lalchowk, she was flanked by senior party leaders including Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, Qazi Mohammad Afzal and Aga Syed Mehmood.
Hundreds of men and women in the rally resisted Police action and trampled over the barriers that promptly evoked a baton charge near Polo View. Police swooped on the rally at three spots but the PDP leaders managed to reach their ultimate destination of Lalchowk where they installed green colour party flags on a clock tower. Addressing the rally, Mehbooba Mufti complained that human rights abuse by the Indian security forces during last 16 months of Omar Abdullah-led National Conference-Congress coalition government had phenomenally increased in the Valley.
Mehbooba alleged that the ‘unbridled’ armed forces and Police had begun wanton abuse of human rights and taken Kashmir back to the ‘pre-2002 dark era’. She referred to a number of recent incidents in which security forces and “pro-government gunmen”, according to her, had eliminated dozens of innocent civilians. Making a particular mention of the controversial killing of a 70-year-old begger in Kupwara district and another civilian in Shopian by Army during the current month, Mehbooba asserted that human rights violation by troops would continue until AFSPA was removed and the plains were demilitarized.
Ms Mufti called upon followers of all political ideologies, including those “fighting for Azadi” to unite for putting pressure on India and Pakistan for immediate resolution of the Kashmir crisis. She claimed that Omar Abdullah’s government had failed on all fronts, including governance and providing electricity and rations to the hapless residents of the state. She asserted that PDP would continue its campaign that had been launched as per the programme previously chalked out by the party patriarch Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
Even as Police claimed that it did not use any extraordinary force against the PDP rally and maintained that nobody was injured, PDP leaders insisted that nearly 15 of the participants, including six women, sustained injuries in the baton charge by Police. Independent sources put the number of the injured at 12 and added that Police did not spare even the photojournalists covering the rally. One photojournalist working for ‘Srinagar Times’ and a correspondent of ‘Greater Kashmir’ were among the mediapersons thrashed by Police.
Reports said that PDP workers took out rallies at almost all the district headquarters in the Valley. Party’s MLAs, MLCs, former Ministers and prominent leaders had gathered at their respective district headquarters to launch today’s campaign with remarkable media exposure.