Chairman LC held hostage for one hour as 20 injured in PDP-NC clash in Budgam

22 March 2008
The Daily Excelsior
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar: With the election fever indicating an upswing all over the Valley inspite of the separatist camp's no-no to participation months ahead of the schedule, a triangular clash between the three main political parties-National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Congress-appears to be in an advance stage of gestation. While the PDP activists today pulled down and burnt the coalition partner Congress' flags on the highway in Qazigund area, Chairman of Legislative Council and senior PDP leader, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura, was held hostage by a rival mob for over an hour amid a bitter PDP-NC clash at Nagam township in Budgam district. Hours before the senior NC leader Abdul Rahim Rather left his official residence in Srinagar to address a rally at Nagam, on Chadoura-Chrar-e-Sharief Road, hundreds of his followers in Chrar-e-Sharief constituency gathered to receive their MLA and former Minister. Around the same time, a number of PDP leaders and activists began movement in the direction of a nearby village, namely Nopora, where the party president Mehbooba Mufti was scheduled to address a rally alongwith her local MLC and Chairman of Legislative Council, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura, and Minister of State Pir Mohamamd Hussain. Eyewitnesses told EXCELSIOR that Mr Hanjura's father, Ghulam Mohammad Lone, had an altercation with a group of NC followers, which culminated into a bitter clash. One of Mr Lone's security personnel struck a baton on the head of an NC activist who sustained injuries. With the help of his armed guards, Mr Lone managed to make his way to Nopora. As he was, in a while, followed by son Hanjura, another group of NC activists intercepted the cavalcade and asked the MLC to 'chasten your father'. It again erupted a verbal clash in which the mob held Mr Hanjura hostage for over an hour and didn't allow him to proceed to his rally at Nopora. Police swung into action with a baton charge, tearsmoke and firing in air. After the hostile crowds dispersed, Hanjura proceeded to the PDP rally. Sources said that 20 people, including four Police officials, sustained injuries. SSP Budgam, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, confirmed that about a dozen people sustained minor injuries when Police used the extreme option of baton charge and tearsmoke. He said that Police used the forces against followers of both the warring parties and restored order. Yet again, a large number of NC activists gathered on the road. They began vowing that they would not allow the PDP president to travel to Nopora via Nagam. Rather than resorting to the use of force again, Mehbooba was advised by Police and party colleagues to take a long detour via Dad-Ompora. She reached the venue of the public rally alongwith Pir Mohammad Hussain and delivered a speech which was more complaining against Congress than the NC. Mehbooba alleged that 'some insiders' in the two ruling coalition from Srinagar to New Delhi had got 'frustrated' over the 'groundswell of support in favour of our party' and they had conspired to ensure that the PDP did not get any coverage on the official electronic media, notably Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan. She complained that the news editors at Radio Kashmir and DDK Srinagar had been projecting 'insignificant meetings of other parties' too prominently but the PDP's 'mammoth rallies' were either being 'blocked completely' or given extremely poor coverage. 'I don't know whose directions the Doordarshan and Radio Kashmir authorities are following to propagate against the PDP, but this dictatorial approach is going to harm the credibility of these institutions more than causing any damage to the PDP,' she said and added that people of the State are watching 'this selective image-building' by these institutions and given the comparative fair coverage on private channels and newspapers, these Government-controlled institutions were denting their own credibility. Ms Mufti said she would take up the issue with the Prasar Bharti and All India Radio authorities in Delhi and, if necessary, raise the matter in the Parliament as well. She, at the same time, made it clear that despite these 'cheap-tricks', the PDP's message traveled fast enough to the nook and corner of the State as people had become its voice and they carried forward the party's agenda. Addressing the rally, Mehbooba said even in the most trying circumstances, the State's young boys and girls had done it proud in whatever field they took a plunge. She said the only area of concern for the youth was the lack of latest technological educational facilities and inadequate job opportunities. She said coming up of three new universities in as many years besides five additional campuses, the State was now to some extent poised to catch up with the emerging economic and educational scenario around us. She said the Central Government's proposed move to declare Jammu & Kashmir a special Educational Zone, as has been demanded by her party time and again, was a welcome step that would revolutionise the State's educational and technical training scenario. While Ms Mufti was addressing her rally, Mr Rather reached his traditional stronghold of Nagam where he delivered a speech. Even as he asked his supporters to maintain a peaceful atmosphere, a group of people complained to him that the entire scene had been created today by an ex-militant, namely Manzoor, retired Range Officer Ghulam Mohammad Rasli and Hanjura's 80-year-old father. He told them that he would meet the Chief Minister and ask him why a coalition partner of the Government itself was creating law and order problems and vitiating the atmosphere. Reports said that a bitter ambience was heavy in air even after both the hostile rallies concluded. At Nopora some of the PDP activists went a final round of stone pelting on the houses and shops of some NC followers. At Nagam, one of the NC activists felled his willow as it had, according to him, been 'made dirty' with a PDP flag hoisted on it earlier in the day. While the NC and the PDP followers clashed in Charar-e-Sharief, far away in Qazigund, a group of the PDP activists pulled down and torched all the Congress party flags which had been hoisted earlier this week on occasion of the Social Welfare Minister Abdul Gani Vakil's rally at Damhal Khushipora. In a statement, Congress MLA and youth leader Mohammad Amin Bhat dismisses it all as 'PDP's frustration' over the popularity which, according to him, his party was gaining in the Valley. As the PDP MLA, Sartaj Madni, organiused a public rally at Waltengo Naar, senior PDP leader and Minister of Agriculture, Abdul Aziz Zargar, addressed yet another rally at Damhal Hanjipora in his Noorabad constituency in south Kashmir. A matador bearing No. JK013-852, met with an accident as it skidded off the road near Qazigund and fell off, causing injuries to 10 PDP workers traveling in the vehicle on way to the Waltengo Naar.