November 2000 News

Violence mars Shia clergyman''s funeral

4 November 2000
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR: Thousands of followers bade a tearful adieu to the politician and Shia clergyman, Agha Syed Mehdi, at Budgam today, amid incidents of violence, arson and police firing reported in Shia-dominated localities. Mehdi, along with five others, was killed when suspected militants detonated a landmine in a Budgam village yesterday. Authorities imposed curfew in select localities falling under five police stations in Srinagar and some places in the countryside as mobs set alight over a dozen houses and killed a young man late last night. While small demonstrations were reported from various places within and outside the city, a gathering of over 35,000 followers attended the burial this afternoon. Some of the mourners resorted to arson and damaged Government offices in Budgam district. Police fired several rounds in the air to control them. The SSP, who was in the police station, was attacked and the police had to fire in the air. Police and para-military forces have been deployed in full strength to prevent escalation of violence. In certain old city areas of Srinagar, the mourners threw bricks and even set afire some houses belonging to the majority community. Besides raising anti-Pakistan slogans, they shouted Qatilon Ko Pesh Karo (Present the killers). Police fired in the air to quell the violent mobs. They said there were many cases of violation of the curfew. Last evening, at Hartrath village on the Srinagar- Baramulla highway, a mob lynched 20-year-old Meraj-ud-Din. He was buried in the forenoon today after the police fired scores of rounds in the air. Within minutes of the burial curfew was imposed on the entire belt, stopping traffic on the highway as well. In the same locality, mobs set alight half a dozen residential structures. There were reports of arson from some remote Bandipore areas, where the Shias are dominant. Neither the Chief Minister, nor Agha''s cousin, Agha Syed Mehmood, a Minister in the Farooq Abdullah Government, was seen at the funeral prayers. All APHC leaders were present. Earlier, led by its Chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, the APHC executive met in the morning and condemned the killing. The Congress leaders, Mr. Gulam Nabi Azad and Mr. Ahmed Patel, visited the bereaved family. They handed over a condolence letter from the party president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi. Agha Mehdi, who belongs to the influential Agha family of Budgam, was a long-time Congress leader. Sonia expresses anguish PTI reports from Delhi: The Congress president, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, today expressed deep anguish at the killing of top Shia leader Aga Syed Mehdi. In a condolence message, Mrs. Gandhi said the Congress appreciated the dedicated work done by Aga for the uplift of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.


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