Valley Fires Rage, Omar Feels The Delhi Chill13 September 2010
The Indian Express
Srinagar: At least 17 people were killed and 131 injured today in different parts of the Valley when securitymen opened fire to break up violent protests, triggered by reports of the alleged desecration of the Koran in the United States. The demonstrations quickly turned into anti-government protests and mobs - police said at least one was led by a leader of the ruling National Conference who was later booked - torched a Christian missionary school and government buildings. Chief Secretary S S Kapoor and Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda called a press conference to appeal for calm, saying reports of the alleged desecration of the Koran were not true. They said they had decided to ban the airing in Kashmir of Iranian channel Press TV which had been putting out the reports. Tension had been mounting since Sunday night over reports of the alleged desecration. For the first time, people took to the streets even in Shia-majority Budgam. DGP Khoda blamed activists of the Syed Ali Shah Geelani-led Hurriyat faction for instigating the violence in Budgam. Khoda played intercepts of what he said was a conversation between Hurriyat Geelani activists about organising a protest in Budgam. In Tangmarg, five persons were killed and 65 injured when police and CRPF fired after a huge crowd attacked government properties. Incidentally, the crowd was being led by local National Conference leader Ali Mohammed Sofi (65) alias Ali Sofi and his son who also addressed people in the town square before the rampage, police said. Ali Sofi is said to be close to Mustafa Kamal, former minister and uncle of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. When contacted, Kamal said Sofi had distanced himself from NC. “He wants best of both worlds and I am sure he is with the other camp. He belongs to the village of the local MLA”. But local legislator Ghulam Hassan Mir, who is Agriculture minister in the Omar cabinet, refuted Kamal’s claim. “He (Sofi) is with NC. He was with them during the elections. Everybody knows he does not work with me,” he said. Police said that the crowd, after the address by Ali Sofi, torched a private school which had been opened a few years ago by the missionary Tyndale Biscoe School in Srinagar. The school building was completely gutted. A case has been registered against Ali Sofi and others for instigating the crowd. “Activists of separatist groups were present but this massive crowd was led by Sofi,” a police officer told The Indian Express. “We pleaded with them but they did not listen. We fired tear-smoke shells and then fired in the air but it was all in vain.” Tangmarg town had been tense since a protest Sunday night. “At dawn, thousands of people came again. This time, they came from as far as Pattan and Kreeri. They came in trucks, buses and other vehicles.” The crowd torched the building of the BDO office, court chamber, tehsildar’s residence and official vehicle, social welfare office, patwari office and two huts of the tourism department. This led to firing by securitymen. Fifteen CRPF and police personnel, including a CRPF Deputy Commandant and Tangmarg SDPO, were injured. Police arrested 25 men. From Humhama on the outskirts of Srinagar, protesters tried to march towards Lal Chowk. Simultaneously, a large crowd attacked the BSF camp in adjoining Gogu. A shopping complex owned by PDP leader Muzaffar Beig was also targeted by the crowd who set a car ablaze - Beig’s son was trapped inside the building. Police opened fire, killing three persons. A Tata Sumo, speeding towards Budgam hospital with the injured, knocked down policeman Devinder Singh who later died in hospital. Thirty-five-year-old Rafiqa was killed inside her house when police opened fire in Ompora village. Police said she was hit by stray bullets. In Chrar-e-Sharief, protesters attacked a police post, a CRPF camp and burnt down two vehicles and two motorcycles. Danish Nabi of Kumar Mohalla died in police firing. In Bandipore, SP Sheikh Junaid sustained serious injuries as he tried to break up a protest. He was airlifted to Srinagar.