Restaurant Attacked, Customers Lifted, Vehicles Torched
10 March 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Kashmiri women's radical organisation, Dukhtaraan-e-Millat, and activists of the lately launched Forum Against Sexual Exploitation (FASE), today raided an uptown restaurant with the allegation that the same was a 'notorious brothel' being used by young couples for 'objectionable acts'. With the support of local population, the raiders torched a vehicle, damaged two more vehicles and manhandled some girls in broad daylight, yards away from Shergarhi Police Station.Immediately after the Friday prayers concluded at the nearby Iqra Masjid at Sarai Balla, scores of men and women gathered at hotel De Meridian and trooped into its restaurant near Naaz Cinema crossing. They roughed up the staff and customers and damaged most of the furniture and other articles. Eyewitnesses said that the raiders captured three young girls and manhandled them before handing them over to the burqa-clad activists of Dukhtaraan-e-Millat and FASE. These two organisations have been on a campaign of raiding restaurants, beauty parlours and cyber cafes with the claimed agenda of fighting sexual exploitation of women and obscenity since last year. The mob set on fire a white colour Maruti-800, bearing registration No: JKE-2349, and also caused extensive damage to another Maruti car, DL6CF-0331, and a black colour Santro, JK01G- 0652. All the three vehicles had been parked, reportedly by the restaurant customers, close to a CRPF bunker where parking of vehicles is not normally allowed. This facilitated the mob to level allegations that 'objectionable activity' in the restaurant had been flourishing with the support of security forces. However, CRPF observed restraint and did not use any kind of force against the unruly mob. Traffic and commercial activity remained disrupted for about two hours as the demonstrators shouted slogans and clashed with Police. In retaliation, Police used a baton charge to disperse the crowds but not before the restaurant and the parked vehicles had been damaged and the customers and staff manhandled. Residents alleged that a 'brothel' was running in the name of the hotel and its owner had ignored all complaints from the locality. They said that finally it was announced on the mosque's public address system that the restaurant would be raided after the Friday prayers. De Meridian owner, Khursheed Ahmed, maintained before mediapersons that no customer had been caught in objectionable condition. He complained that a mob of ruffians barged into the restaurant, attacked some customers who were taking tea and ransacked furniture. He alleged that the raiders looted cash worth Rs 30,000 and threatened to get him killed. According to him, it was surprising that a group of people had attacked his hotel and torched the vehicles of his customers just under the nose of Police Station Shergarhi. SSP Srinagar, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba, told the Excelsior that Police reached the spot on time but the mob had already ransacked the hotel and set the vehicles on fire. He said that Police registered an FIR against the Dukhtaraan-e-Millat and FASE even as the activists of the two organisations involved in the offence were being identified. He said that the activists of the two outfits had been indulging in this kind of activity since last year and Police had arrested about a dozen of them on the spot when they had attacked an Internet cafe in Khanyar. He said that Police produced a challan in the court and later the accused were set free on bail. He claimed that, according to reports available with him, none of girls or couples had been found or caught red-handed or otherwise by the raiders at the restaurant. SSP confirmed that Police had arrested six of the youth who had indulged in arson. Asked for her comments, Dukhtaraan-e-Millat chief, Asiya Andrabi, appreciated that the residents of Sarai Balla had raided a restaurant and discouraged promiscuity in the town. 'We had been receiving reports that De Meridian had turned into the town's biggest brothel. We were informed by the residents that they were going to raid this brothel today. When we reached the spot, we found that the mob had ransacked the restaurant, damaged the cars and captured three girls, who were being beaten up. Some people insisted that they would set the girls on fire. Later, they handed over three girls to us. One of them was a resident of Banihal and two more from Srinagar', Asiya told the Excelsior. The Dukhtaraan chief claimed that one of the three girls was an SPO while another claimed to the people that she was collecting donation for Alamdar Yateem Trust. She said that the Dukhtaraan activists set free all the three girls later near Iqbal Park and 'advised' them not to indulge in 'immoral activities' any more.