March 2001 News

Police shoots at protesting students in Baramulla, 1 killed

23 March 2001
The Asian Age

Srinagar: A 17-year old boy was killed and another wounded in Kashmir’s northwestern town of Baramulla on Friday when the police opened fire to quell a students’ mob protesting against the latest incident of burning of Quran by activists of a hardline Hindu group in Amritsar this week. The desecration of the holy book, the second such incident this month, sparked off protests across the Kashmir Valley on Friday. Particularly after the weekly mid-day prayers, Muslims held street demonstrations and at a number of places clashed with the riot police. In Baramulla, 55 km from here, the angry students attacked passing vehicles with stones and other missiles to force a bandh. As the riot police came their way, the town’s streets witnessed brickbatting for during which the policemen made repeated attempts to chase the violent demonstrators away by firing teargas canisters and using batons, reports received here said. Soon a contingent of CRPF joined the local police to quell the surging mobs. Later on, a student Merajuddin Sheikh died when the policemen twice opened fire at protesters at Uri Bus Stand just outside the town. Another protester injured in the firing has been identified as Altaf Hussain. The bloody incidents heightened tension in the border town and latest reports said that police and paramilitary reinforcements have been fanned out there to prevent further trouble. Students also held protest demonstrations in neighbouring towns of Kupwara, Sopore and Bandipore to protest the desecration of the Quran. At each these places, the police lobbed tear-smoke and used batons to break the demonstrations. Indefinite curfew was clamped on border town of Poonch in the Jammu region following violent demonstrations by Muslims protesting the sacrilegious act in Amritsar. An official spokesman said that the Section 144 of the RPC was being strictly enforced in the town areas as a precautionary measure. Other reports said that the situation was taking a communal turn in the already volatile town and the authorities decided to impose curfew before it was too late. In Srinagar, the agitators clashed with the police at Lal Chowk, the city centre, outside the grand mosque and other places. Again, the police used force to quell the stone-throwing mobs. A spontaneous bandh was observed in many parts of the city and in some other Valley towns including Pattan, Magam, Budgam and Tral. Various students’ organisations had called for a one-day strike in all educational institutions to lodge their protest against the burning of the Quran in New Delhi on March 5 and in Amritsar earlier this week. Imams and other religious leaders while giving Friday sermons at mosques and hospices warned the central and state governments against allowing Hindus activists to desecrate the holy book. “Don’t challenge the pride and courage of Muslims,” said one of them. The cleric wondered if the Quran was being burnt to avenge the demolition of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan. The Hurriyat Conference, the Muslim Conference, the JKLF and the Muslim League have issued statements condemning incidents in New Delhi and Amritsar. Muslim Conference’s Gulam Nabi Sumji threatened that if the atrocities on Indian Muslims continued and their religious sentiment were hurt in this fashion “nobody can prevent creation of another Pakistan out of present India.” The Kashmir Valley and predominantly Muslim areas of Jammu region observed a complete shutdown on last Friday against the desecration of the Quran. The latest incident at Amritsar has only added to the public anger and the authorities are on their toes how to face the situation. Their concern could be reflected also in chief minister Farooq Abdullah’s assertion that the Hindu fanatics who burnt the Quran will have to answer their deeds before Allah who alone was the protector of the holy book. “They won’t be spared for what they have done,” he said here the other day. He was actually trying to pacify the Kashmiri Muslims who are highly disappointed and agitated over the desecration.


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