Army bunkers dismantled in Handwara; shopkeeper arrested
Normalcy returns to Handwara, Kupwara after a week of turbulence
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Jammu, April 19: Normalcy returned to the turbulent Kupwara district after a week of turbulence when the authorities in Handwara dismantled Army’s 25-year-old bunker in the main market with the help of a bulldozer, parallel to the arrest of a shopkeeper who had allegedly attacked a teenage girl student on April 12.
Official sources said that on the direction of Deputy Commissioner of Kupwara, authorities pressed into service a JCB that demolished the two-storeyed bunker building in presence of over 300 residents and shopkeepers. A day after April 12th firing, in which two youths of Handwara and an alderly woman of Langate had died and several others got injured, DC Kupwara had held a meeting with the civil society in Handwara. During the meeting, it was agreed by the officers that so-called Town Commander’s bunker, would be dismantled and the company of RR 21 Bn shifted to the battalion headquarters at Bagatpora.
Sources said that in all three bunkers of RR 21 Bn were removed from Handwara town. Sources said that former Forest Minister Ghulam Mohiuddin Sofi, who had defeated senior National Conference leader Choudhary Ramzan as an Independent candidate with the support of Abdul Gani Lone’s Peoples Conference in 2002, had spent an amount of Rs 16 Lakh on construction and renovation of the bunker from his Constituency Development Fund. Mr Sofi has broken away with PC and joined the ruling Peoples Democratic Party some time back.
Ch Ramzan and independent MLA from Langate Engineer Rasheed had attended the civil society meeting with DC Kupwara Kumar Ranjiv Ranjan, Additional DC Muzaffar Ahmad and Tehsildar Handwara on April 13. Both Choudhary and Rasheed had pointed out that after shifting of the Army convoys through newly created bypass, there was no need of having a bunker in the main market. Engineer Rasheed said that the decision of demolition of the bunker had been taken on April 13 and implemented today.
MLA Handwara and Minister of Social Welfare Sajjad Gani Lone said that he handed over the space to the Municipal Committee of Handwara after demolition of the bunker. He said it was the peoples’ demand to remove the bunker.
Order was restored to Handwara after April 12 as the authorities lifted the curfew permanently and the traders subsequently opened their shops. In all 5 civilians got killed and over a hundred injured in five-day-long clashes with Police and security forces in Kupwara district that reeled under curfew and shutdown on the call of separatist organisations.
Simultaneously today, DC Kupwara held a meeting with traders of Kupwara at Hotel Raj Palace. In exchange of assurances from both sides, curfew was lifted and shops opened. DC Kupwara held another meeting with the residents at Police Station Trehgam---residential town of JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat that witnessed ding dong clashes between demonstrators and Police for five days.
Officials said that there would be no restrictions or curfew anywhere in Kupwara district on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Police claimed to have arrested shopkeeper Hilal Ahmad Banday of Handwara who had allegedly slapped a teenage girl student and dragged her to Police station with the allegation that she had been spotted with a soldier outside a public lavatory close to the Army bunker on April 12. In a video released secretly by Police and Army, the girl had stated that Hilal, alongwith a male student in uniform, had levelled allegations, beaten her up and dragged her to Police Station. On her statement, Police have registered FIR against the two youths.
Sources said that the unidentified male student would be arrested in the next 24 hours.
In a related development, an activist group has produced the mother of the girl student before media in Srinagar. She told journalists that Police had held her daughter in wrongful confinement and recorded her statement under duress. She has also filed a petition of wrongful confinement against Police. High Court has directed Police that the girl should not be exposed to media and that it should explain on April 20 under what law she had been detained alongwith her father. Court also directed that the girl be produced before nearest judicial magistrate for recording of her statement.
Subsequently, a judicial magistrate in Handwara has recorded her statement in which she has reportedly contradicted her mother and maintained that she had not been molested by any soldier. She has reiterated that two youths created the whole fuss who levelled baseless allegation that led to mayhem in the district.