Two oil tanker drivers critically injured in stone pelting at Bijbehara
Shutdown, curfew, clashes, demonstrations continue in Valley on 45th day
Ahmed Ali FayyazSRINAGAR, Aug 22: While Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was holding out assurance of safety and security to oil tanker owners and traders in a meeting in Jammu on Monday, some people in her hometown of Bijbehara, on Srinagar-Jammu national highway, left two oil tanker drivers critically injured in intense stone pelting.
Informed official sources told STATE TIMES that on Monday evening dozens of people near Bijbehara subjected the incoming oil tankers and other vehicular traffic to heavy stone pelting. Two oil tanker drivers, namely Abdul Gani of Sowgam Kupwara and Manzoor Ahmad Dar of Lethapora, were hit in their heads. Both in critical condition were evacuated and rushed to Srinagar where doctors at SMHS Hospital performed surgeries. Sources maintained that both the drivers were ‘critical’.
The incident occurred when Chief Minister was in a meeting with J&K Oil Tanker Owners Association (JKOTOA), Jammu Transporters Union (JTU) and Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI) at the end of her daylong visit in Jammu. On her personal assurance of safety and security to the oil tanker drivers and owners, JKOTOA and J&K Tanker Driver and Cleaner Association, which had earlier in the day met with senior government officials including DIG Jammu Ashkoor Wani, had called off their strike and decided to restore fuel supplies to Kashmir valley forthwith.
According to a statement, Government had assured the two associations of the oil tanker owners and drivers and cleaners that adequate security would be provided to them from Banihal to Srinagar, as they would operate in a convoy, and further from Srinagar depots of HPCL, IOC and Bharat Petroleum to different destinations in the turbulent Kashmir valley. The associations had stopped all fuel supplies to Kashmir and gone on a strike on Saturday following which the Government on Monday persuaded them to call off their agitation. It had complained that as many as 18 tankers had been damaged in the stone pelting and a number of the drivers harassed.
Responding to the security concerns raised by the Oil Tankers Association, the Chief Minister assured them adequate security and asked them to immediately resume fuel supplies to Kashmir.
“The Oil Tanker Owners Association was on strike since Saturday evening following mob attacks on oil tanker drivers and cleaners in Kashmir. Following the assurance by the Chief Minister the Oil Tanker Owners Association decided to call off the strike and resume fuel supplies to the Valley from Tuesday. The Oil Tanker Owners Association was told that the state Government would provide them special helpline numbers so that they can immediately get in touch with the authorities in case of any emergency”, a press release from the Government said.
However, within minutes of an agreement between the top government functionaries and the oil tanker owners, the drivers were attacked and two of them left critically injured at Bijbehara.
Shutdown, curfew on 45th day
Meanwhile, entire Kashmir valley reeled under the separatists-sponsored shutdown on 45th consecutive day after the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter on July 8. Curfew remained in force in downtown Srinagar where a civilian protester got killed in tear gas shelling on Sunday evening, raising the death toll to 67 in the last 45 days of turbulence. Restrictions remained in force in some towns in South Kashmir.
Official sources said that unruly crowds attacked Police and CRPF at more than 30 places in the capital city at the timing of withdrawal of deployments. Over 30 protesters and Police and paramilitary personnel are estimated to have sustained minor injuries in the clashes.
Earlier in the day, around 10,000 people gathered at Salia Aeshmuqam in Anantnag district to express their solidarity to the militants and civilians killed by security forces in the last 46 days. They shouted pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans. Police initially resisted their efforts to assemble but subsequently withdrew from the spot. Police officials said that they escaped as they were “badly outnumbered” by the protesters who also carried Pakistani flags.
Reports said that a similar gathering of over 3,000 people shouted pro-Azadi and pro-Pakistan slogans at Eidgah Pattan and another gathering of 3,000 people put up a similar demonstration at Kaimoh, Kulgam.
Thinner group of 20 to 100 stone pelters clashed with Police and paramilitary forces at Azadgunj Baramulla, Tekipora Lalpora in Kupwara while as around 600 people clashed with Police in Fatehkadal area of Srinagar in protest of a civilian’s killing last evening in tear gas shelling. Some of them waved Pakistani flags.
Reports said that miscreants checked identity cards and roughed up government employees, particularly the Policemen, going to attend their duties and returning to home at Mirgund Crossing in Budgam, Romoh Pulwama and some other places. However, peaceful demonstration took place at Hyderpora.
A Police spokesman said in a statement that curfew was relaxed in the jurisdiction of police stations of uptown in Srinagar from 0900 Hrs to 1700 Hrs including Ram Munshi Bag, Kothi Bagh, Raj Bagh, Sadder, Nowgam, Shaheed Gunj, Karan Nagar, Shergarhi and Parimpora. Curfew was also relaxed in Soura, Lal Bazar and Nigeen police stations' jurisdiction. During the relaxation hours no untoward incident was reported, markets remained open and traffic was normal on roads.
“Situation remained peaceful in Srinagar, Pulwama, Kulgam, Ganderbal, Bandipore, Kupwara, Baramulla. However, 5 incidents of stone pelting waere reported from Budgam, Anantnag, Shopian and Sopore. These incidents were reported from Hyderpora in Budgam, Salli in Anantnag, Wathu, Gonapora in Shopian and Gulabad in Sopore”
“The situation across the Kashmir valley remained under control and no other untoward incident was reported. The movement of traffic on national highway and other roads remained normal”, added the Police statement.
[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]