Two vehicles torched, dozen damaged; highway blocked for 10 hours26 July 2010
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: District Magistrate imposed restrictions under Section 144 in the township of Samba this evening after a strong mob of over 3000 people turned violent and resorted to stone pelting on police and vehicles and torched a truck and a load carrier (autorikshaw) while Additional SP and Additional DC Samba were among at least 30 persons injured in the police–protesters’ clashes during the day in the town. The police had to open at least a dozen rounds of fire in the air and over two scores of teargas shells as the crowd turned highly violent after lathi-charge by police.The district administration had to impose Section 144 realizing that situation was going out of control at 4.30 pm. The violent mob resorted to heavy stone –pelting on police men and other officers of district administration amidst lathi-charge and teargas shelling. They smashed the window panes of at least a dozen vehicles stranded on National Highway and set afire a Valley bound truck loaded with vegetables and a load carrier. The trouble started over the issue of smuggling of bovine animals from the area to Kashmir valley with the alleged connivance of police. The locals intercepted about a half a dozen bovine animals which were being taken from Samba area towards Mansar road side by 4-5 members of a particular community during wee hours today. While others managed to escape, one of them was nabbed and two cattle seized by local youth. They severely thrashed the alleged cattle smuggler, Mukhtiar Ali of village Chak Magga. It was later found that two animals had been stolen by them from the cattle-shed of a local farmer Kaka Ram. The captured person disclosed that they had to pay Rs 1000 per cattle to cross a particular police naka. This irked the locals who had earlier also requested the district police to keep check on the smuggling of bovine animals in the district. After this, a large number of youth and others, including activists of Bajrang Dal, Vishav Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena, BJP and RSS assembled at the main chowk of Samba town. They raised barricades and blocked Jammu-Pathankot National Highway at around 7 am. They started massive demonstration against Samba police demanding removal of SSP Samba Raghubir Singh. They also shouted slogans against DC Samba and alleged that district administration had proved failure to check the smuggling of bovine animals. The shops in the main market near Bus Stand were closed as Highway remained blocked for over 10 hours. Some vehicles were diverted to Dayala Chak-Dhar Road and Mansar road. Irate people along with two rescued cows and the accused Mukhtiar Ali sat on the highway and staged day long dharna. They were joined by district BJP president, general secretary and other office bearers besides BJP MLA from Hiranagar, Durga Dass. The flow of traffic on the highway came to grinding halt. Huge traffic jam was created on both sides of the busy National Highway. Divisional Commissioner Jammu Dr Pawan Kotwal and IGP Jammu Ashok Gupta rushed to the troubled town and persuaded the agitating people during noon but people refused to listen and demanded suspension of SSP and action against him. The IGP agreed to attach SHO and Dr Kotwal assured Judicial inquiry into the incident but the mob remained unmoved. As the IGP and Dr Kotwal returned and were moving towards their vehicles, the stone pelting commenced, followed by lathicharge and police firing. The police lobbed at least three dozens of teargas shells to disperse the mob. The captured miscreant was rescued. The agitating people, showing human approach during day long protest also provided bananas and medical aid in captivity to Mukhtiar Ali. However, after rescue he was taken to safer place. During heavy stone pelting ASP Sanjay Kotwal, Addl DC R C Sharma and at least dozen cops were injured. Five of them were shifted to GMC Jammu. In police action, at least 15 locals were injured. The police also arrested 10 persons for rioting. DC Samba, Saurabh Bhagat, when contacted, said that restrictions under Section 144 were imposed after mob went violent and started torching vehicles and damaging them. They also caused damage to public property, shops and reharis. He said the entire show was politically motivated. Mr Bhagat further maintained that public alleged bovine smuggling by the members of a particular community. The Divisional Commissioner during meeting assured them judicial probe but they turned down the same and demanded action against SSP. Mr Bhagat said the traffic was restored on Highway around 5.30 pm and some vehicles were diverted to Dhar Road from Mansar and Dayala Chak. But people had a tough time as they remained stranded for hours together. Even employees could not reach offices in Samba and Kathua. Amarnath Yatra vehicles also remained stranded near Kathua. He said citizens meeting has been called and Advisor to Chief Minister Devinder Singh Rana and Minister for Industries, S S Slathia have arrived in the town to review situation and hold dialogue with prominent persons of the Samba town. He claimed that half a dozen officers and a dozen cops have been hurt in stonning. SSP Samba Raghubir Singh said that police resorted to lathicharge and teargas shelling after youth resorted to unprovoked stone-pelting. The captured man was rescued otherwise his life was in danger. He said ASP Mr Kotwal was seriously injured and the mob torched two vehicles. Restrictions were imposed after they moved towards Highway to damage other stranded vehicles. He dismissed the charges of bribe of Rs 1000 per cattle at every naka on highway. Meanwhile, a meeting of prominent citizens with District Administration in presence of Minister S S Slathia and CM’s Advisor, Mr Rana commenced late this evening at DC office. IGP Jammu, Divisional Commissioner and other district officers attended the same. It was in progress when the last reports came in. In a joint press statement here this evening State president of VHP Dr Ramakant Dubey and Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti convenor, Brig Suchet Singh strongly condemned police action in Samba and demanded suspension of SSP and other police officers responsible for alleged smuggling of bovine animals. They said earlier also the VHP and other organizations had urged the administration to take cognizance of increasing incidents of smuggling of cattle but this practice continued in connivance with police. Jammu Province People’s Forum , an amalgam of nearly 30 organisations, also condemned the police lathi-charge on agitating people. The Forum members said that strict action be taken against cops otherwise, a massive agitation would be launched. .