Police and quake survivors clash in Azad Kashmir
22 April 2006
The Daily Times
Muzaffarabad: Police fired warning shots and charged with batons on Saturday as hundreds of Kashmir earthquake survivors took to the streets demanding compensation payments. Shopkeepers also went on strike in protest at tax demands and utility bills issued despite desperate conditions since the October 8 quake. “It was a complete strike in Muzaffarabad and protestors staged rallies in different parts of the city,” a police officer said. Protesters burned tyres and blocked roads leading to Jhelum and Neelum valleys and Kohala district, they said, adding that public transport had ground to a halt. Police fired into the air and used truncheons to disperse some 1,000 protestors in Garhi Dupatta and the nearby town of Majoi, police officer Sultan Awan said. One policeman and three other people were injured, police and a witness said. Almost all shops were closed as authorities issued notices to pay taxes, traders said. Some 700 people at a rally on the main Bank Road also criticised the power supply department for sending utility bills to owners of buildings destroyed in the disaster. “My shop and warehouse were totally destroyed. There is no business at all but we are being sent utility bills and tax notices,” said shopkeeper Nisar Ahmed. Witnesses said protesters burned utility bills and chanted slogans against the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority. Residents said the government promised cash compensation of Rs 175,000 to owner of each house destroyed in the quake. Most of the survivors have received an initial tranche of Rs 25,000 but the payment of the remaining money has now been suspended pending a new survey, residents said. They said compensation money should be doubled and paid to each affected family instead of each devastated house.