Several offices, police stations set on fire by mob11 September 2010
The Daily Excelsior
SRINAGAR: Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations in Kashmir were today disrupted by violent protests and incidents of arson, in which mobs set on fire several Government and police properties including Crime Branch and PDD headquarters. Trouble began soon after Eid prayers at Hazratbal shrine on the banks of Dal lake as a mob first ransacked the Auqaf building, housing armed police personnel deployed on guard for the shrine and holy relic of Prophet Muhammad, and then set it on fire. The mob also set ablaze a police vehicle parked outside the premises of the shrine. Police fired several rounds in air to disperse the mob, who started pelting stones at them. Four protestors and three cops were injured in the clashes that lasted more than an hour. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was expected to offer prayers at the shrine but he was advised against it by the security officials last night in view of the prevailing situation. The security grid maintained that presence of the Chief Minister in such a large gathering could pose a security risk as it was not possible to make necessary security arrangements in view of Eid. A police spokesman said activists of Hurriyat Conference (G) and Muslim League disturbed Eid Nimaz at Hazratbal and set fire to the Auqaf building housing the policemen and a police vehicle. 'The workers of the Hurriyat (G) and Muslim League have been identified, who had in a pre-planned manner disrupted the peaceful prayers of Hazratbal. Investigation also revealed that these elements have planned in advance to provoke the administration and use the Eid congregation to disrupt festivities and create the misconception this was a popular movement. Yesterday's arrests at Kulgam have revealed that Hurriyat (G) has been using hooligans to force people to participate in the hartals and protests,' he added. On the other side of the city, moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq called for an impromptu march to Lal Chowk soon after the Eid prayers at Eidgah. Thousands of people marched through the old city areas and reached Lal Chowk where the separatist leaders including Mirwaiz and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik addressed them. A group of youth climbed atop the Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) and hoisted flags on it. However, in the process of climbing up and down the tower, extensive damage was caused to the land mark which was recently renovated by the authorities. As soon as the protest rally led by Mirwaiz dispersed, a handful of youth marched towards the head office of Power Development Department at Exhibition Crossing and set it ablaze. The fire quickly spread to adjoining building of Crime Branch Headquarters and the office of the Power Commissioner. All the structures were gutted in the blaze as the buildings are mainly made of wood. Police fired several rounds in air to bring the situation under control and to facilitate the movement of the fire tenders to douse flames and prevent any damage to the Kashmir Haat, located behind the gutted buildings. DGP Kuldeep Khoda led a team of senior police officials to the spot to supervise the operations. Giving details of other incidents, a police spokesman said miscreants attacked police station Sopore, police station Pulwama, police station Kunzer, SBI building at Main Chowk, Sopore, SP South's office in Srinagar and Women police station at Rambagh. 'They also roughed up and beat up a police man of Crime Branch with a steel rod. One person namely Imran Ahmad Bhat who was trying to hoist flag on Clock Tower, fell down and was admitted into the hospital,' he said. The spokesman said miscreants also pelted stones at Lethpora and Murran in Pulwama district and ransacked the toll post at Pahalgam. One person was injured in the clashes, he added. He said this is for the first time that Eid congregation has been converted into protest and the people of Srinagar have not been allowed to celebrate Eid peacefully. 'Seeing the gathering at Eidgah and Lal Chowk, it seems that people by and large are being held hostage by the vested interests,' he added. Police blamed activists of hard line faction of Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Muslim league headed by underground separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat for carrying out the incidents of arson as part of a pre-planned conspiracy to disrupt Eid celebrations. Meanwhile, Traffic police posts at Jahangir Chowk and Regal Chowk were also set on fire. The plastic road dividers, used by the traffic police for regulating traffic, were also torched at many places. In the evening, a mob started pelting stones at the office of Superintendent of Police (City South) and the women's police station adjoining it, causing damage to the buildings. Police fired several rounds of tear smoke shells to disperse the protesters, police said adding no one was hurt in the incident. Reports of violence were also received from other parts of the Valley where protesters targeted police installations. Police station Pulwama in south Kashmir and police stations at Sopore and Kunzar in north Kashmir's Baramulla district were also attacked by mobs after Eid prayers but the protesters were chased away by the security personnel. Police said once again it came to fore today that the militants had mixed up with crowds, when some shots were fired from a crowd in Hathi Shah, Sopore. In the beginning, a single gun shot was fired which was followed by the brust fire. Fortunately there were no injuries in this incident. ‘‘This has proved that militants have become part and parcel of the plans for the disturbance of the peace in the Valley, police said, adding that about half a dozen times the incidents of firing and grenade throwing have been reported from Sopore alone. While on earlier occasion grenades were lobbed at Hathi Shah bridge and Chankhan about one and a half month ago, gun shots were fired from the mobs twice at Main Chowk Sopore, once in Kapra Theatre area, once on police station Sopore and once from the crowd at Bomai. At Palhalan some one fired from the crowd injuring the Station House Officer, Pattan. Militants are also moving along with the crowds at many other places including Hajan and Sumbal areas, police added. Meanwhile, Eid prayers were also held at the shrine of Mehboobul-Alam, Shahi Hamdan, Sheikh Nooruddin Wali, Sheikh Dawood Batamaloo, Pir Dastgir Sahib Khanyar and Saribal, Jamia Masjid Budshah Nagar, Syed Sahib Sonawar, Jenab Sahib Soura and Shehari Kalashpora. A report from Baramulla said Eid prayers were held in different mosques, Khankhas, Eidgahs, open fields and Jamia masjids in this and other north Kashmir towns, tehsil headquarters and other places. Eid prayers were also held in this and other south Kashmir towns, tehsil headquarters and other places in south Kashmir, a report from Anantnag said. Reports of Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations were also received from other parts of the Kashmir valley, including Ganderbal and Budgam. However, Eid was celebrated in Kargil district in Ladakh region yesterday.