Lal Chowk March Foiled10 April 2010
Srinagar: Acting tough against the striking state government employees, police on Saturday detained dozens of them and their leaders across the Valley when they were trying to converge towards Lal Chowk here for a protest rally. As soon employees tried to gather in different areas from SK Park to Lal Chowk here, police swung into action and prevented them from assembling at one place. Police had sealed all the entry points leading to the city. There was heavy deployment at HMT Crossing, Pantha Chowk, Pandach and Humhama areas. The Joint Consultative Committee member and EJAC (K) president, Khurshid Alam, along with 12 others tried to march towards Lal Chowk in the heart of the city but police tried to prevent them from proceeding resulting in clashes between the two sides. Police used batons on the striking employees but they managed to reach Regal Chowk where Alam and 12 of his associates were taken into custody. Undeterred by the police action, the striking employees reappeared at Jehangir chowk and proceeded towards Lal Chowk where police used water canons to disperse them, police said. About 4.50 lakh government and PSU employees are on strike since April 3 to press their demand for payment of arrears of 6th pay commission and raising of retirement age from 58 years to 60 years. The Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range, Farooq Ahmad said that 54 employees were detained in various areas of the Valley. “28 were detained in Srinagar, 24 in Bandipora and one each in Islamabad and Kupwara districts,” he said. The IGP said that the employees were detained under ESMA and preventive laws. “Nobody was injured as we didn’t even use tear smoke canisters. They dispersed peacefully,” he added. However, acting president EJAC (K) and member JCC, Muntazir Mohi-ud-Din said that 1500 employees were detained in various districts of Kashmir. “JCC will meet on April 12 at 11 am wherein we will take decision about future course of action,” he said. The Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Me’raj Ahmad Kakroo said that employees tried to take out a procession in Lal Chowk areas. “But we didn’t allow them as Section 144 was in place.” Khursheed Alam told Greater Kashmir over phone that he had been lodged in Kothibagh police station. “We tore Section 144 into pieces. Despite martial law like situation employees showed their anger and strength.” He said that 23 employee leaders including two ladies were held in Srinagar. “Amina Hafiz and Syeda Ladakhi have been shifted to women’s police station while the rest have been shifted to unknown destination,” he said. Sources said that government will act tough against the striking employees in coming days. The Minister for Rural Development and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Muhammad Sagar, today asked Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal and Chief Education Ganderbal to prepare list of educated youth in the district who can be engaged in schools incase teachers don’t return to duties immediately. “The poor students of government schools are the worst sufferers of the strike. We will not tolerate this and will act tough against these teachers particularly those who force others not to work,” he said while taking the review of the different developmental works here in the Town hall. Sagar impressed upon the local NGOs and other social workers to come forward to save the future of the poor students. The Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Naseema Lanker, wasn’t available for comment. Highly placed sources from New Delhi told GK that employees in all the offices of J&K government in Delhi are on strike. “Even a glass of water isn’t available in Kashmir House and everybody including ministers have to go to the market to fetch provisions,” they added. Meanwhile, various employees unions have strongly condemned the police action. The J&K Employees Joint Action Committee (Q) senior vice-president, Fayaz Ahmad Shabnam while condemning the police action said, “Today’s programme showed that despite invoking of ESMA employees are determined to fight for their rights.” He demanded immediate release of EJAC (Q) president, Abdul Qayoom Wani. The J&K Employees Joint Action Committee senior vice president, Bashir Ahmad Ganie termed the police action on employees “undemocratic.” “We condemn the government action and demand immediate release of Khursheed Alam,” he said. The J&K EJAC (Collective Leadership) senior leaders Rafiq Ahmad Khanyari, Gulzar Ahmad Banday and others while condemning the arrest of employees said that government can never crush the employees as they are demanding their ‘genuine’ rights. “If government will not stop arrests and other tactics, essential services will soon join the strike,” they warned. The General Secretary of Electrical Employees Union, Manzoor Ahmad while condemning the arrests said, “We won’t budge even an inch by such tactics.” He said a large number of employees from his union protested in Lal Chowk today. The J&K Daily-wagers Joint Action Forum General Secretary, S Umar Bhat, while strongly condemning the police action said, “The undemocratic tactics by the government won’t yield anything. It is high time that government fulfils its promises made with the employees and daily-wagers from time to time.” He demanded immediate release of all the arrested employees.