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Friday, April 30, 2010

State of anarchy: Stone pelters kill civilian in Srinagar

Geelani’s supporters smash head of a middle-aged Govt official on way to his duty

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 30: Two months after killing an eleven-day-old infant in the lap of his mother in Baramulla, Kashmiri separatists calling the practice of stone pelting as their ‘only tool of resistance against the state repression’, today killed a middle-aged civilian by smashing his head with a heavy stone in Batmaloo area of this capital city. While as police have as usual completed the formality of registering a murder case against “unidentified persons”, most of the Kashmiri politicians, including those who have been providing moral and intellectual support to this anarchical form of ‘resistance’, have condemned the killing of a civilian by the unruly street demonstrators.

According to the information gathered from varied sources, a group of six to eight youngsters, in age group of 15-25 years, began disrupting vehicular traffic in Batmaloo area at around 0820 hours when there was no Police or CRPF deployment. Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had called for a march to the UNMOGIP headquarters at Sonwar after conclusion of the Friday afternoon prayers. He had not, however, called for a shutdown and had even urged the people not to indulge in stone pelting on Police or armed forces. Notwithstanding Geelani’s advice, youngsters identifying themselves with his political cause appeared at several places in Srinagar, Baramulla, Sopore and Anantnag townships and engaged Police and paramilitary forces in intense stone pelting.

As soon as a Tata-407 minibus, carrying passengers from Chhanpora to General Bus Stand of Batmaloo, via Exhibition Chowk, reached close to its destination, youngsters from an alley subjected it to heavy stone pelting. A weighty stone, thrown from a distance of five to ten yards, smashed a windshield and hit one of the commuters straight into his head. As blood began gushing out of his head and he fell unconscious, driver of the bus rushed him quickly to SMHS Hospital for medical treatment.

The 46-year-old victim of the stone pelting was identified as Shafeeq Ahmed Sheikh S/o Ghulam Nabi Sheikh R/o Dilsoz Colony, Nattipora. A class 4th employee of J&K State Board of School Education, Sheikh was on way to his office and close to reaching a connecting service to Bemina when he was fatally hit in his head.

On finding his condition as “extremely critical”, doctors at SMHS Hospital referred Sheikh to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura. Driver, conductor and some fellow passengers said that Sheikh breathed his last at Safakadal. SKIMS Medical Superintendent, Dr Syed Amin Tabish, told Early Times that Sheikh seemed to have been hit with a heavy stone in his head. He said that there was no other injury on his body. When it was brought to his notice that some people had been holding a “gunshot wound” responsible for causing Sheikh’s death, Dr Tabish asserted that doctors who examined him at SKIMS described Sheikh as “brought dead”. He said that no other injury, let alone gunshot wound, had been found on Sheikh’s body.

SP City, South, Mohammad Irshad, said that Sheikh’s body was brought back to Police Control Room where doctors conducted post mortem at a Police hospital. He said that the post mortem report was still awaited but claimed that “nothing other than a heavy stone of 1.5 Kg” could have caused Sheikh’s death. He said that the stone had been found in the bus and later seized by Police. SP South said that Police Station Batmaloo registered case FIR No: 46 of 2010 under sections 302 (murder), 148, 149, 336 and 427 against the “unidentified persons”. He said that some of the hooligans of the group had been got identified but none of them could be arrested as all of them had immediately gone into hiding.

SP South said that all the hooligans, who had resorted to stone pelting and killed an innocent civilian, had been identified as the supporters of the hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani. He said that all of them would be arrested and brought to justice and none of them would be spared under any pressure.

SSP Srinagar, Javed Riyaz Bedar, as well as SP South, Mohammad Irshad, maintained that there was neither any disturbance nor any Police or CRPF deployment in Batmaloo area when the stone pelting hooligans began striking on vehicular traffic without any cause or even a call from separatist leaders. They said that after killing an 11-day-old infant in his mother’s lap in Baramulla on February 22nd this year, stone pelters enjoying material, moral and intellectual support from several separatist as well as mainstream political leaders, had now killed second innocent civilian in a broad daylight strike.

Geelani’s spokesperson, Ayaz Akbar, according to KNS, asserted that gunshot wounds had caused Sheikh’s death. KNS reported that Ayaz quoted eyewitnesses who performed Sheikh’s funeral rites before his burial was conducted amid emotional scenes at Nattipora. Akbar’s phones were found switched off till late tonight. Without directly blaming the state agencies and armed forces for Sheikh’s killing in keeping with a 20-year tradition, Geelani’s spokesman has simply called for “an independent probe”. However, Dukhtaraan-e-Millat Chairperson, Asiya Andrabi, in her press release called Sheikh’s killing a tragedy and alleged that the “Government’s paid agents” had caused his death to sabotage Mr Geelani’s peaceful march to the UNMOGIP.

While making an attempt to come out of his “house arrest” to perform Friday prayers at Masjid-e-Hamza Amirakadal and to, subsequently, lead a march of his followers to UNMOGIP, Geelani was taken into custody and lodged at Police Station Humhama.

Geelani had called for a march to UNMGIP to register “Kashmir’s strong protest” against a Delhi court’s pronouncement of death sentence on three convicts, including two Kashmiri youth, found involved in killing of 13 persons in a car bomb explosion at New Delhi’s business hub of Lajpath Nagar in May 1996. He had also cited ‘human rights abuse by the Indian armed forces and Police’ in Kashmir as another cause of action while announcing his demonstration here earlier this week.

Sheikh’s death in today’s stone pelting brought a pall of gloom to his residential colony of Nattipora, in Srinagar outskirts, where his funeral was conducted amid emotional scenes. His uncle and a brother said after the funeral that Sheikh had been religiously attending his duty without any regard to calls for shutdown by separatists or curfew by Police. They said that he had, as usual, left for his office but was brought back dead for none of his faults. Amid strong protest against Sheikh’s death in stone pelting, shops were closed in Nattipora and scores of youngsters came out on the streets. Some of them later clashed with Police with the allegation that their neighbour had been shot dead by CRPF.

Reports said that shops and business establishments remained open in entire Kashmir valley, including in Srinagar, after residents learned in the morning that armed forces had simply detained the separatist leaders Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at their respective residences and there were no restrictions on the movement of traffic.

However, after conclusion of the Friday afternoon prayers at different mosques---excluding Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s religious seat of Jamia Masjid---scores of people staged demonstrations and engaged Police and CRPF in ding dong clashes at about six spots in Srinagar downtown and about 12 spots in Baramulla, Sopore and Anantnag towns. Reports said that groups of unruly youngsters resorted to heavy stone pelting on Police and CRPF and the forces in retaliation used batons and tearsmoke to disperse the crowds. Over two dozen demonstrators and Police personnel are estimated to have sustained injuries in these clashes.

Mirwaiz Umar’s second and third line leaders walked through streets in downtown localities and even made an unsuccessful attempt to get him out for proceeding on a notified programme to Anantnag in South Kashmir. Security guards and Police at Mirwaiz Manzil foiled all such attempts and did not allow the Hurriyat Chairman to keep his programme of visiting Anantnag.