Troubled For A Year, J&K Cops Nab ‘kingpin’ Of Stone-pelters22 February 2010
Times of India
Srinagar: Jammu & Kashmir police claimed to have achieved a major breakthrough in its campaign against stone-pelting in the Valley with the arrest of a former militant and the alleged kingpin of a gang of stone-pelters in Srinagar on Monday. Near-daily incidents of stone-pelting have become a major headache for the cops at several places in the Valley, particularly around Maisuma in downtown Srinagar. Motley crowds, comprising mainly youth, believed to be part of the gang regularly resort to stoning in a bid to keep the pot boiling as the violence has dipped to an all-time low since 1989. A police officer said Irshad Ahmed Zargar, a former member of now defunct al- Jehad outfit, was responsible for ‘‘every stone-pelting incident on the Valley’s streets’’. He said Zargar was picked up from his Srinagar residence following a tip-off from ‘‘some law-abiding citizen’’. Police said another 50 stone-pelters were also arrested. ‘‘The gang gets money from some businessmen and separatist groups,’’ the officer said. He said Zargar was arrested after cops received an e-mail on the gang’s modus-operandi and source of funding. Srinagar SSP Javid Riyaz Bedar said police were investigating the issue. ‘‘It would be premature to accuse any individual of funding the gang,’’ he said. Bedar said police were trying to get Zargar’s past militant record. A group of five masked boys, who assailed the Hurriyat, had recently appeared before the media and asked youth to stone cops ‘‘to divert world attention towards the Kashmir issue’’. Bedar said the police have identified the five and would take action against them. More than 2,000 people have been injured in stone-pelting incidents in last one year. A group of around 60 policemen, with another 100 in the backup team, are dedicated to control Maisuma’s stone-pelters and have mastered the art of shielding themselves and preventing the youth from disturbing life in the neighbouring areas.