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Friday, July 22, 2016

Two NC workers arrested for ‘looting weapons, firing on Army camp’ in Kulgam

Sakeena Itoo: ‘We had built Police Station, Court complex with our sweat and blood. How would our men reduce them to rubble?’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

DAMHAL HANJIPORA (Kulgam), Jul 21: Two of the opposition National Conference (NC) workers have been arrested by Police with the allegation that they had not only set ablaze a Police station but also looted weapons from its armoury and fired on a camp of Rashtriya Rifles from a huge crowd after funeral prayers for the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani had been performed at Damhal Hanjipora, in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district, on July 9.

A day after Wani died, along with two more Kashmiri militants, in a controversial operation of Police and Army at Bamdora Kokernag, unruly crowds in the Valley attacked and set ablaze several Police installations including Police Stations of Damhal Hanjipora and Kund in Kulgam.

Senior Superintendent of Police Mohammad Irshad confirmed that seven persons had been arrested and subjected to questioning for the firing and torching of public properties on July 9. He confirmed that two detainees, both residents of Khul Ahmadabad, admitted that they had looted weapons from Damhal Hanjipora Police Station and fired on the local Army camp from behind a crowd. Two civilians, including a woman, had got killed in the shootout and several others injured. SSP declined to comment on the political affiliation of the accused but confirmed that both the automatic rifles used in the firing on Army had been recovered from them.

Sources, however, insisted that both the accused were “known activists of National Conference and staunch supporters of the former Minister Sakeena Itoo”.

“During investigation, we learned that these two persons had carried petrol in a big plastic container from their village Khul Ahmadabad, that is 8 Kms away from Damhal Hanjipora, and set on fire CJM’s court and residence and thereafter the Police Station. They have admitted that they looted two SLRs from the Police Station and opened fire on Army’s Casper that was driven in reverse direction back to the camp when the crowd resorted to violence”, SSP Irshad told STATE TIMES.

SSP disclosed that as many as 41 weapons, including SLRs, Insas rifles and AK-47s, were missing after the Police Station, along with its Kot (armoury), was set ablaze by the crowd. “We have recovered 35 guns but 30 of them are charred. Six weapons, including one AK-47, are still missing but we have identified the persons who have looted the same and we are sure to get back every single weapon”, SSP Irshad said. He claimed that none of the 41 missing weapons had fallen in the hands of militants. He said that in addition to 41 Police weapons, 11 AK-47s, seized from militants, were also destroyed in the blaze.

Ms Itoo, who has been NC’s MLA, MLC and Minister several times, strongly dismissed reports that her party’s workers were involved in burning public properties, attacking Police Station or Army camp. “This is absurd and utter nonsense. Our workers are neither stone throwers nor saboteurs. Unlike our opponents, we have been religiously associated with development and peace building. Even in 2008 and 2010 mass agitation, there was not a single incident of violence or clash in my constituency (Noorabad)”, Ms Itoo, herself a resident of Damhal Hanjipora, said.

“I had raised this court complex and Police station with my sweat and blood. These were very beautiful buildings. Our people know it well. How could they even think about burning down such public properties? This is not National Conference’s tradition”, Ms Itoo asserted.

“It may be nothing but a sinister conspiracy to frame our workers in the current turbulence and violence. Everybody knows who these people are. Find about those killed or injured in this turbulence. In 2010, our opposition party (PDP) played a proactive role in the mayhem. Their district youth president died while pelting stones in Anantnag. Even when we were in power and a baseless allegation of a woman’s rape by Army was levelled and projected, Mehboobaji  herself camped in Manzgam (former Minister and PDP MLA late Abdul Aziz Zargar’s village in Noorabad) to create trouble. We reached out to the people and proved that trouble was being created over a baseless allegation. Within two days that lady came out with her statement and called it baseless”, Ms Itoo further said.

According to Ms Itoo, people of different villages gathered at Damhal Hanjipora on July 9th and they performed Burhan Wani’s funeral prayers in absentia. SHO Haider went to the Eidgah and he picked up some youths. Scores of people rushed to the Police Station and implored him to set the youths free. He, however, misbehaved with them. “As the situation came to an altercation and the people began fighting with SHO, his PSO Parvez opened fire in which a woman and a man, who was from a different village and had gone to his relatives after Eid, were killed. The SHO escaped and took shelter in the Army camp. The angry crowd set the Police Station on fire. The last Policeman, Constable Niyaz Ahmad, attempted to put out the fire with the help of three residents, but failed. Soon he too escaped.

Ms Itoo claimed that half of the population in DH Pora was her supporter and another half followers of PDP’s sitting MLA Abdul Majid Paddar, who functioned as Minister of State for Forest in Mufti Sayeed’s government but was not inducted by Mehbooba Mufti. “What were that man and his supporters doing? He too lives in this very village. He has his sons and daughters married in this village”. She said that for several days, Damhal looked like a liberated zone. “SHO and Tehsildar were themselves missing. DC was not visible anywhere. Now they are appearing here and trying to restore the Police Station”.

SSP Irshad declined to engage himself in an argument with any politician but maintained that “not a single weapon” of the Police Station was out in use during the clash.

“Only one weapon was issued to a Constable who was posted with static guard at the court complex. He was the only Police man with a gun. When the mayhem was going on, he took shelter at a friend’s home and concealed his gun there. Parvez carried a gas gun. While fleeing, he had thrown it into Army premises. We have recovered it. He has not fired a single shot as he had no gun with him”, SSP said. He claimed that Army’s Casper at the camp’s entrance had received gunshots and these had been fired from the SLRs looted from the Police Station.

Two FIRs have been filed regarding the shootout and the crowd’s attack on the Police Station, court complex and the Army camp.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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