RAF again called out as violence flares up

26 July 2008
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Violence flared up on fourth day of consecutive bandh as protesters and police clashed at different places across the City and outskirts today with a fierce clash taking place at Muthi where nearly a dozen cops and SPOs were thrashed by the angry crowd causing them serious injuries. One of the injured constable was battling for life in the Government Medical College, Jammu. Police had to open firing in air to disperse the crowd. Purani Mandi, Raj Tilak Road, Link Road, Moti Bazaar and Parade Ground in the City remained hub of police-public clashes with protesters resorting to stone pelting on the cops, who retaliated with heavy teargas and lathicharge. Over 70 persons, mostly youths, were reported to have sustained injuries in day long clashes. SHO Pacca Danga Inspector K K Gupta sustained a deep fracture wound in the stoning. An official car was set on fire by the mob at Circular Road. Series of violent incidents in the City and outskirts forced the authorities to again deploy two companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) in violence hit areas. The RAF was deployed during initial phase of bandh and curfew in first week of this month but was withdrawn as situation had by and large returned to normal. The RAF personnel including women took positions in the City, Muthi and other violence hit areas but the mob had no confrontation with them. Their target remained the police only. Police is being targeted by the agitationists since yesterday morning following an alleged attempt by them to burn the body of Kuldeep Dogra in the wee hours of Thursday morning 'using tyres and liquor' at Bishnah. Dogra had ended his life allegedly by consuming poison on Wednesday afternoon at Parade Ground, the venue of dharna by Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti. Shilpi Dogra, wife of Kuldeep Dogra and Mahant Shravan Giri along with a number of prominent citizens of the town including former MLA Ashwani Sharma addressed a joint press conference in Bishnah town today in which they disputed the administration's claim that police was cremating the body with all Hindu rituals. Shilpi, displaying the marks of torture, threatened that she too would end life at Parade Ground if action was not taken against police officers and cops responsible for giving inhuman treatment to her husband's body and family members on Wednesday night. Reports said a large procession taken out by activists of the Sangarsh Samiti, BJP and local people from Barnai clashed with police personnel at Muthi this morning when they were prevented from marching ahead. The processionists grappled with the cops and took hold of many of them amidst heavy lathicharge and teargassing by the police. As the processionists were very large in number, they beat-up about a dozen constables and SPOs with sticks and subjected them to heavy stone pelting causing them serious injuries. The clash between police and cops continued for more than half an hour in which 20 protesters including Sheela Handoo, Corporator, Omi Khajuria, Mukesh Sharma, Guru and Mangat Ram Gupta were also injured. Police fired about 15 shots in air to rescue the cops. A Selection Grade Constable Bashir Ahmed No. 1963 J son of Mohd Abdullah R-o Gool, presently posted at District Police Lines (DPL), Jammu and deployed at Muthi was mercilessly beaten-up by the mob with sticks on his head. Another constable Vijay Kumar No. 347 was also critically wounded in the clash. They were evacuated from the spot and taken to GMC Jammu where condition of Bashir Ahmed was stated to be critical. Other police personnel injured in the clash at Muthi include Rajinder Singh, Ashok Kumar, Deepa, Ajay Kumar, all constables and SPO Laali. They were given first-aid at the hospital. Mob also assaulted a constable Sandeep Kumar son of Anchal Singh R-o Shaheedhi Chowk at Muthi, though he was not on duty. Senior officers of police and civil administration including Divisional Commissioner Sudanshu Pandey, IGP K Rajendra and DC Dr Mandeep Bhandari rushed to Muthi from Jammu and Akhnoor along with strong contingents of police and para-military personnel and chased away the mob using heavy lathicharge and teargas. Later, RAF companies were deployed in Muthi. Police have registered a case of attempt to murder and rioting under different Sections against unnamed persons in connection with the clash and thrashing of cops at Domana police station. It may be recalled that the mob had on Thursday kidnapped seven police constables in Bishnah while protesting against maltreatment given to the body of Kuldeep Dogra and handed over severe thrashing to them in a field besides burning their helmets, uniforms and wooden instruments used as shield from stone pelting. A small group of youths intercepted an Ambassador car No. 6265 JK01C at Circular Road in which an Assistant Commissioner of Sales Tax, Kashmir was reportedly travelling. The youths allowed the officer and his driver to leave the spot and set the vehicle on fire. Fire Brigades and police personnel rushed to the spot but by then the car had nearly been burnt. At Raj Tilak Road, Purani Mandi, Link Road, Pir Mitha, Parade Ground and Kachi Chawni, the youths repeatedly clashed with police by pelting stones and bricks on the cops, who replied with lathicharge and teargas. Clashes continued throughout the day in which more than two dozen protesters and cops including SHO Pacca Danga Inspector K K Gupta were injured. Gupta sustained fractures. Authorities immediately deputed Inspector Behari Lal Sharma to officiate as SHO Pacca Danga as a temporary arrangement. Several teargas shells landed in people's houses in these localities. A constable Charanjeet Singh, posted in District Police Lines (DPL) and Raj Kumar, PSO of a Vigilance Officer were held hostage by local people and pujari of Purani Mandi temple this afternoon demanding immediate release of the youths detained by police during protests. Since a large number of people had gathered in and outside the temple, the cops didn't make any attempt to rescue the cops anticipating that it could lead to another clash. Later, the RAF was deployed in the old city to control the protests. Both the cops were, however, freed by the mob late this evening. There was virtually no locality in the City where the people joined by women and children didn't take to streets shouting slogans against Governor N N Vohra, National Conference president Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti. Protesters burnt tyres to block road and torched effigies of Vohra, Abdullah and Mufti raising slogans like 'Bum Bum Bhole' and 'Kuldeep Dogra Amar Rahe'. The people were demanding stern action against police officials responsible for desecrating the body of Dogra and demanding restoration of 800 kanals of forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). A total of 24 cops and 11 civilians reported to GMC Jammu in injured condition for treatment, GMC MS Dr Romesh Gupta said, adding only two of them were admitted and others were discharged after first-aid. He added that injured cop Bashir Ahmed was also responding to the treatment. IGP K Rajendra visited the GMC and inquire condition of the injured. Entire Jammu City and outskirts remained closed for fourth consecutive day today in response to Sangarsh Samiti's bandh call for restoration of land to the SASB. All shops, business establishments, Government offices and educational institutions remained closed. Though there was no curfew in any area, the City roads were deserted except for the places where youths fought pitched battles with police. All major towns, semi-urban and even rural areas responded to the bandh call. Not even a single shop could be seen open in any part of the City. Bandh was also complete in Samba, Vijaypur, Bari Brahamana, Bishnah, RS Pura, Satwari, Domana, Akhnoor, Khour and Jourian. Reports of bandh were also received from parts of Sunderbani and Kalakote. Late in the evening, women in Akhnoor town beat 'thalis' on their roofs to protest the Government decision to withdraw land from the SASB. Local scribes in Akhnoor wore black wedges against an alleged threat given to them by Congress leader and former MLA Sham Sharma for giving coverage to the bandh. In Bari Brahamana, BJP leader Chander Prakash Ganga was taken into preventive custody but was released in the evening. About 100 activists of the Samiti, BJP and protesters were detained by police in various parts of Jammu during the day today. While some of them were freed in the evening, others remained in police custody. In Rehari Colony and Sarwal a massive 'mashal rally' was taken out by the people late this evening. Traffic on Jammu-Srinagar, Jammu-Pathankot and Jammu-Akhnoor road remained off except of few private vehicles. No commercial vehicles were seen plying on any major road including the City. Jammu-Srinagar highway was blocked by the Sangarsh Samiti and BJP activists led by Pawan Gupta at MH Crossing, TCP and Slathia Chowk in Udhampur for more than three hours blocking movement of even thin private traffic. The National Panthers Party (NPP) held a separate demonstration at Slathia Chowk. At Main Chowk, Udhampur, the Sangarsh Samiti activists adopted a unique mode of protest. They stood on ice for several hours shouting anti-Government and anti-police slogans and sang 'bhajans' of Lord Shiva and Durga Mata. Some rehris, which appeared in the town at Udhampur, were forced to go off the roads by the protesters. Udhampur, Ramnagar, Chenani, Reasi and other major towns of Udhampur district observed a complete shutdown. Katra town, the base camp of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, has been spared of the bandh by the bandh organisors to avoid inconvenience to the pilgrims. Shops of minority community remained closed in Bhaderwah town of Doda district for third day today. In Kathua, authorities used heavy force to clear over 250 trucks carrying goods to Kashmir, which had been blocked by the agitationists at Lakhanpur, entrance to Jammu and Kashmir, for the last two days. A large number of people gathered at Lakhanpur town and shouted slogans against the authorities when the trucks carrying supplies to Kashmir were forcibly cleared. The trucks were asked to take Dhar road, sources said, adding the trucks were stoned by the mob but drivers managed to take them away from Kathua. Traffic on Jammu-Pathankot road remained closed barring movement of private cars and some trucks. Even Government offices were closed down by the mob in Kathua town. People including women continued their dharna at Main Chowk in Kathua. People also took out a procession from Hiranagar Morh to Dayala Chak while all important towns in Kathua district including Chadwal, Hiranagar, Dayala Chak, Rajbagh, Lakhanpur, Basohli, Billawar and Bani responded to the bandh call. Guard of a private factory was reported to have fired a couple of shots in air when mob tried to forcibly close down the factory in industrial area of Kathua. For the first time during bandh, the protesters forced closure of factories in the industrial estate at Kathua. Meanwhile, addressing a press conference in Bishnah, Shilpi Dogra, widow of Kuldeep Dogra, Mahant Shrawan Giri, MLA Bishnah Ashwani Sharma and a number of prominent citizens of Bishnah town held police responsible for using kerosene oil, tyres and liquor to burn the body of Dogra in wee hours of Thursday morning at Bishnah town. 'If the administration required proof for taking action against police officers, we are ready to give witnesses at any place that police used liquor and tyres to burn Dogra's body', Shilpi and the Mahant, who had made announcement from Ram temple Bishnah when the body was being burnt secretly by the cops before sunrise, declared at the press conference. Shilpi said she and her sister were beaten-up by the cops with sticks at abdomen and other parts of bodies when they tried to resist the cremation in the night. She said she could easily identify four police officers (having stars on their uniform) who were directing cops for cremation of Dogra if the officers are paraded before her. 'If justice is not done and action is not taken against the police officers for desecration of my husband's body, I will also end my life in full public view at Parade Ground', Shilpi declared with tears rolling down her cheeks. She made it clear that no police official had come to record her statement so far. It may be mentioned that the administration, in a press conference yesterday, had categorically denied use of liquor and tyres in a bid to burn Dogra's body and had instead blamed the people of Bishnah for forcing the cops to go for cremation of the body before sunrise. Shilpi, the Mahant and other people, present in the press conference, took strong exception to the administration describing people of Bishnah as 'urchins' saying 'goondagardi' of the cops had crossed all limits. 'I have seen hundreds of cremations at Bishnah, but this was first incident in my life when I saw the cops giving such a bad treatment to the body and trying to burn it before sunrise', the Mahant said as a number of people including women pledged to give their witness of police highhandedness with the body. Shilpi demanded that the police officers involved in desecrating the body should be prosecuted. Sanctity of cremation ground has been violated by the cops, the Mahant observed. It may be mentioned here that the people had later lifted the body of Dogra from pyre in the night and cremate it in the day with full respects. The relatives of Dogra later addressing another press conference at Jammu also and accused the police for desecration of the body of their kin and thrashing them ruthlessly. They demanded medical examination of the female relatives of Dogra who have been thrashed by police at Bishnah and Talab Tillo the day before yesterday. Ajay Vaid, nephew of Dogra alleged that police segregated male and female members of the family and thrashed them before taking them to the cremation ground forcefully. Later, they dragged the body of Dogra and sprinkled kerosene oil and liquor on it after placing it on pyre. He broke down saying in Kashmir Rs three lakh are given to the family of a slain militant besides a Government job to next kin while Dogra, who died for a noble cause was given a treatment like an animal. The pleas of Dogra's wife to cremate the body during the day were turned down and she was also thrashed by police said, Sunita sister in- law of Dogra said 'We were forcibly taken in police vehicle from Talab Tillo to Bishnah cremation ground where in violation of Hindu rituals the cremation was being preformed during night', she added. Expressing serious concern over the misbehavior of the police with the family members of Dogra, Tripta Vaid elder Bhabi of Mr Dogra warned that the family will expose those responsible for this inhuman act before the public. She alleged that women were not spared from harassment and thrashing. SP Headquarters Shailender Singh met people at Bishnah, R S Pura and Miran Sahib police stations and sought their help in defusing tension. Meanwhile, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu Sudhanshu Pandey on Saturday announced a magisterial enquiry in the cremation of Kuldeep Dogra at Bishnah by the police without religious sensitivity. This announcement was made by him at a meeting of political leaders of various parties, social organizations, prominent citizens and Corporators here this evening. Inspector General of Police K. Rajendra, Mayor JMC Kavinder Gupta, Deputy Commissioner, Jammu Dr. Mandeep K Bhandari, DIG Jammu A Q Manhas, Joint Director Information Jammu Dr. Sat Pal, Additional Deputy Commissioner, M.S Sheikh, Assistant Commissioner Revenue, Rajinder Singh, Ex-MLA Yogesh Sawhney and other senior officers of Revenue, police and civil administration were present on the occasion. Interacting with gathering, the Divisional Commissioner Jammu said that there had been persistent allegations of use of liquor, kerosene oil etc for liting the pyre of Kuldeep Dogra during the wee hours on Thursday at Bishnah. police had strongly denied the allegations and had assured yesterday that the Government would not be averse to probe if any evidence is produced to the contrary. Mr. Pandey said that the magisterial enquiry would be completed within seven days and if anybody was found guilty of showing disrespect to the body of Verma, he would be punished sternly. The Divisional Commissioner, Jammu also appealed to the political leaders, social organizations and prominent citizens to come forward with their valuable suggestions for improving the present scenario in the Jammu region. Meanwhile, A cheque of Rs. 1 lakh has been given to the widow of Dogra as ex-gratia relief. The cheque was released by DC Jammu to Tehsildar Bishnah for forwarding it to the widow, sources said.