Houses burnt, massive dharnas, bandh in parts of Kathua
22 December 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Police opened firing as a mob went on rampage burning down about a dozen houses of a particular community at village Chalog protesting a sacrilegious act at village Dudharu Surjan, about six kms from Bani town in Kathua district this afternoon as protests flared up in Billawar, Basohli, Mahanpur, Nagrota and Kathua with people taking to streets demanding stern action against the accused of sacrilege. A complete bandh was observed in all towns of Kathua district today while a call for bandh in Kathua town has been given by a number of organisations, mostly from Sangh Parivar, tomorrow. Army along with CRPF and police has been deployed in Bani. Senior police and civil officers including DIG Jammu range Lalat Indu Mohanty and SSP Kathua JP Singh camped at Bani. Additional enforcement of CRPF has been rushed to Bani, Basohli, Billawar and all other towns of Kathua from here to maintain law and order. Situation in the aftermath of sacrilegious act, which had been committed last Saturday and was detected yesterday, was stated to be tense but under control in entire Kathua district. All five accused involved in the act including a woman have been arrested. Yet another sacrilegious act was reported from Belicharana in Satwari area last evening. People blocked Jammu-RS Pura road outside Satwari police station this morning and dispersed only after the arrest of prime accused and police assurance that stern action will be taken against other accused. Official sources said local people suspected a sacrilegious act by a family at village Dudharu Surjan in Chalog area of Bani last evening and sounded local police. A police party led by SHO Raghubir Singh rushed to Dudharu Surjan and after several hour long efforts detected a grave and recovered carcass of the buried animal. Police immediately swung into action and arrested all five accused involved in sacrilegious act including a woman. They have been identified as Saleema Begum, 40 and Irshad Ahmed, wife and son of Showkat Ali Mir, residents of Dudharu Surjan, Mohd Ashraf son of Ali Mohd R-o Khajar Surjan, Asgar Ali son of Ali Akbar and Mohd Rafiq son of Ghulam Rasool, residents of Surjan. At about 4.30 am today, a large number of people from all villages of Bani gathered at Mela Ground and marched to Bani town. However, some of the people secretly moved towards Chalog and set on fire about a dozen houses of a particular community in protest against the sacrilegious act. About 15 families living in the houses had already abandoned their houses after sensing attack by the mob in their village. The houses were completely burnt as there was no scope of a Fire Brigade immediately reaching the spot. Mr Mohanty, who camped at Bani during the day today along with SSP Kathua J P Singh, Deputy Commissioner Sarita Chouhan and SDPO Bani K P Singh, told the Excelsior that police initially opened firing in air but that failed to deter the rampaging mob. Police then fired on ground and prevented any further damage to property of a particular community and a possible clash between the two sides. No one was injured in police firing and mob fury, reports said. Mr Mohanty later called people from both the communities in Bani and formed a peace committee. He asked the committee to take out a march in Bani town and villages tomorrow asking the people to maintain law and order. Mob, which had gathered in Bani town, was persuaded by police and civil officers to disperse as they were told that all five accused involved in sacrilegious act have been arrested and a case registered against them at Bani police station. Police have registered a separate FIR in the same police station in burning down of the houses. Accused in the case are yet to be nominated. As a precautionary measure, Army has been deployed in Bani alongwith CRPF and police to maintain law and order. As news of sacrilegious act spread, shopkeepers downed their shutters in Billawar, Basohli, Mahanpur, Nagrota and other towns in Kathua district and took to streets shouting slogans against the sacrilegious act. Additional SP Kathua Benam Tosh rushed to the towns and persuaded the people to give up protests as action has already been taken against the accused. Late this evening, a number of organisations of Sangh Parivar and other bodies gave a call for bandh in Kathua tomorrow to protest the sacrilegious act. Sources said enforcement of CRPF has been rushed to different towns of Kathua, mainly in Bani and Kathua town, from Jammu to maintain law and order during tomorrow’s bandh. Another sacrilegious act was reported from Belicharana under the jurisdiction of Satwari police station last night. Tension mounted in Belicharana after the report of sacrilege spread and in the morning a large number of local people marched to Satwari. They held a massive demonstration outside Satwari police station and blocked Jammu-RS Pura road shouting slogans. Police arrested prime accused in the sacrilege act, Ishaq son of Mohd Ali R-o Bagli, Gandoh, presently putting up at Belicharana migrant camp. Four other accused were involved in the act along with Ishaq, police said, adding all of them have been identified and a search was on to apprehend them as they have gone underground. SSP Jammu Parminder Singh and Deputy Commissioner Hardesh Kumar talked to the protesters and told them that a case FIR No. 222-07 under Section 298-A has been registered against all five accused at Satwari police station and the prime accused has been arrested. They assured the people that other accused would also be arrested shortly. Following the assurance, people dispersed peacefully. Police parties led by SHO Satwari Arun Kotwal had last night recovered parts of bodies of the animal from Belicharana and sent them to Animal Husbandry Department for tests. The SSP Jammu has, meanwhile, constituted a 10 member committee of senior citizens of Belicharana to help police in investigations and verification of antecedents of the people of Belicharana following allegations by the people that some 'undesirable persons' have also gained entry in the area.