50 hurt, several detained; strike call for Aug 19-20

12 August 2009
The Daily Excelsior
Gopal Sharma

SRINAGAR-JAMMU: At least fifty employees were injured and thousands others arrested as the Government today used police force and water canons to foil the 'Srinagar Chalo'and Assembly Gherao programme of the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), announced to press the authorities to fully implement the recommendations of 6th Pay Commission. While hundreds of employees advancing towards Srinagar from various tehsils and district headquarters in buses and mini-buses were stopped at various police nakas after identification parade and detained for hours together, many of them who had arrived from Ladakh and Jammu were taken into preventive custody during pre-dawn raids at different hotels and private buildings where they were sleeping. Entire Srinagar city was totally sealed and virtually converted into a Chawni by deploying additional police and paramilitary forces. They stopped each commercial vehicle moving towards Srinagar and allowed to leave only after identification parade of passengers. All the passengers were asked to produce I-cards and then allowed to move ahead. The march of hunderds of employees was foiled as they were not allowed to reach the venue decided by the JCC. The work in Civil Secretariat and other Government offices remained paralysed due to strike programme of the employees. Many offices across the region wore a deserted look. The women employees also participated in today's agitation in large number. While police claimed to have detained over 200 employees, JCC leader Khurshid Alam alleged that nearly 7,500 employees were detained at various police Stations of the city today. He also alleged that atleast 22 employees were injured as police resorted to use of 'brutal force' at Lal Chowk and Shaheed Gunj area of the city during baton and water canon charge. Mr Alam who alongwith other leaders and workers was detained at Shaheed Ganj Police Station said that JCC leadership has announced to observe a complete Statewide strike on August 19 and 20. He claimed that future course of action will also be decided during these two days of Kam Chor Hartal. He said employees were detained in various police stations and kept like flocks of sheep and goats. Many were made to sit by police in the sun without water facility for hours. He strongly condemned the attitude of Government and the belt force which tried to gag the voice of over four lakh employees. Another JCC leader Abdul Qayoom Wani who alongwith nearly 300 employees was detained at Kothibagh police station said that their group was intercepted ahead of Lal Mandi and then dragged and packed in buses and then shifted to Thana. He said the use of police force cane charge left several employees injured. Several women employees reported to have fainted during police action and were hospitalized. He said he alongwith senior leaders Gafoor Dar, Abdul Ahad, Ghulam Rasool, Mushtaq Ahmed , Babu Hussain Malik were the first who became the police target and packed in the vehicles. The police as per its devised strategy had kept informers with them and targeted the JCC and EJAC leadership. He said two employees namely Abdul Rehman and Aijaz Hakim were hospitalized after their limbs were fractured in police lathicharge. At least 22 persons were injured there during police action. Several such reports have been received from various other parts where JCC leaders as per their planned strategy were advancing towards Civil Secretariat. Another Group of protesting employees led by JCC leaders Ram Kumar Sharma and Madan Sangral, K A Dewani, Mohd Sultan, Bharat Bhushan and Balwan Singh ,was taken into preventive custody near Lal Chowk. They started their procession from Press Colony and moved towards Secretariat . The police which had created barricades on the road stopped the employees and after cane charge packed into the vehicle. The employees resisted the move action but failed to advance towards Secretarit. Later, Mr Kumar said that at least 350 employees had been detained at Ram Munshibagh police station. There was no arrangement of water and detained employees were made to suffer for want of a drop of water. During raid at Taj hotel and several other private buildings early morning at least four dozens of employees were arrested and taken to DPL and nearby police station. A senior JCC member Ganesh Khajuria alleged that employees including JKTF who had come last night from Jammu to participate in Srinagar Chalo march were lifted while sleeping and many of them were even not allowed to wear proper clothes. He said several senior leaders of the organization including Gopal Sharma, Vishwamitter, Gurdeep Slathia and others were lodged in the police station. Senior JCC member Mohd Maqbool was intercepted when he was moving towards Assembly alongwith over 400 employees. They were arrested and lodged at Maisuma Police Station till late this evening. He said the police resorted to lathicharge on them and at least a dozen employees suffered injuries. He said two women employees got fainted during the police action. He condemned the police brutalities and alleged that employees' agitation can not be crushed by using force. He claimed that more than seven thousand employees were today detained but released by late this evening. The Government had imposed Section 144 CrPC in the city, which prohibits assembly of four or more persons at any place, as JCC had asked employees from all the three regions of the State to march towards the summer capital . The police had imposed restrictions on the employees from last night only through naka checking of vehicles and by 'cracking down' on the houses of JCC members and other employees. Nearly 300 women employees were detained at various police stations. Asserting that peaceful protests were allowed in democratic countries, a JCC leader said the supreme body of employees will not be bogged down by the display of 'brute force' by the Government. Condemning the 'Government's advertisement' that according to him had alleged that the agitating employees had put forward 'new' demands, he said 'JCC did not demand anything new and we were only asking for the implementation of SRO that was recommended by the Cabinet.' He also called the 'Government's advertisement,' a conspiracy of the Chief Minister, against the employees. JCC have been demanding release of the arrears recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission in favour of the State Government employees and pensioners, removal of pay anomalies, extension of retirement age by two years, increase in the House Rent Allowance (HRA) to equal that of the Central Government employees and increase in the salary of daily wagers, adhoc and contractual employees besides regularization of their services.