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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eidgah crowd sets on fire Rakhshak, cops’ gun

Masked stone pelters clash with Police in Srinagar, 20 civilian vehicles damaged

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 20: Violence marred festivity of Eid-ul-Fitr as crowds of separatist activists today clashed with Police and set a bullet-proof Rakhshak on fire after the congregational prayers at Eidgah, also damaging 20 private vehicles. Even as no arrests had been made until this evening, Police are said to be planning a major crackdown after having obtained a video clip and got over a dozen of the hooligans identified.

Barred from speaking to media, most of the Police officials refused to make comment or share details and the Government did not issue any statement on today’s violence at Eidgah till late this evening. However, well placed official sources revealed to Early Times that immediately after conclusion of the congregational Eid prayers at Eidgah, a group of separatist activists began shouting pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans. On sighting a Police vehicle in movement from Safakadal to Soura, it gheraoed the bullet-proof Rakhshak and overpowered its driver and three other Police personnel in it.

The group of 20 to 30 persons manhandled the captured Policemen severely and tore off their uniform. The one-odd constable, carrying an AK-47 rifle, was disarmed. Thereafter, the captured Rakhshak and the gun seized from a constable were set on fire. A senior Police officer told this newspaper that both, the Rakhshak as well as the rifle, suffered extensive damage in the fire. He said that the four captured Police personnel were let off after they were mercilessly beaten up and their uniform was torn into shreds. He said that the vehicle and the four men in it belonged to Police Post Qamarwari (Police Station Parimpora) and they were heading for SKIMS, Soura, to take custody of the dead body of one Sheikh Ghulam Hassan of Nandigam, Pulwama, (living in Qamarwari area). Injured in a road accident last week, Sheikh had died at the hospital today.

Sources said that all the four Policemen were later evacuated and rushed to hospital for medical treatment. Two of them were discharged and two others placed under treatment and observation.

Eyewitnesses corroborated the official sources’ account, saying that there was no provocation from Police or paramilitary forces. They said that minutes after attacking the Police party and torching a Rakhshak and a gun, scores of youngsters wearing Intifada-style masks resorted to intense stone pelting on Police, CRPF and the private vehicles in movement. As many as 20 civilian vehicles suffered damage. Glasspanes and windscreens of a number of private vehicles were smashed into smithereens. Thereupon, ding dong clashes continued between the masked stone pelters and Police for half-an-hour.

On one point of time, situation seemed to be worsening on the pattern of the turbulence on this day in 2010 when crowds from Eidgah had surged towards the Civil Lines area of Lalchowk, causing damage to a clock tower and setting a number of government building, including headquarters of the state Crime Branch, on fire. However, soon it became clear today that only a trickle of the gathering was interested in mayhem. With the exception of only one or two hundreds stone pelters, everybody drew back to home peacefully.

As the people returned to their homes after attending the congregational prayers---largest in Kashmir----and the stone pelters vanished into different neighbourhoods, calm prevailed at around the noon. Thereafter no incident of violence or clash was reported from anywhere in the capital city or elsewhere in the Valley. Traffic movement remained smooth and undisturbed for rest of the day.

Authoritative sources disclosed to this newspaper that in the afternoon Police succeeded in obtaining a detailed video clip of the attack on Police party and the Rakhshak. Explicit visuals of the attack helped Police to identify over a dozen of the attackers. “They will be all rounded up and booked under different provisions of law within next 24 hours”, a senior Police official maintained. He said that Police would launch a major crackdown on the stone pelters and the arsonists involved in attacking the Police party.

Chairman of the separatist Hurriyat Conference and cleric-politician, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had called upon residents of Srinagar to participate in the massive Eid-ul-Fitr prayers congregation at Eidgah. However, the authorities placed almost all the separatist leaders, including Mirwaiz, under “house arrest” and did not permit them to attend or address any of the Eid prayers congregation. Those confined at their respective residences in Srinagar also included head of the radical faction of Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabir Ahmad Shah, National Front chairman, Nayeem Khan, and JKLF Chairman, Mohammad Yasin Malik.

While the separatist politicians and clerics remained in confinement, with Police deployments around their houses and offices, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his father, Dr Farooq Abdullah, participated in the massive Eid prayers congregation at Hazratbal. With most of the state-controlled Wakf functionaries escorting and flanking Chief Minister and Dr Abdullah, the ruling National Conference top brass occupied the front row at the prayers at Hazratbal. Eyewitnesses said that there were no political speeches or demonstrations.

Elsewhere in Valley, thousands of devout Muslims participated in Eid-ul-Fitr congregational prayers at community mosques and Jamia Masjids in their localities. Unfazed by the violent incident at Eidgah in Srinagar, Valley observed Eid with traditional fervour and gaiety. The festival marks the end of the holy month of Ramzan, Muslims attired in white traditional outfits were seen greeting one another, hugging and shaking hands with friends and relatives. Even the traditional flashpoint of Anantnag, where followers of two conflicting schools of thought have clashed invariably every year on this occasion in the last several years, was calm today.


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