Kulgam Seethes For 2nd Day After Rape Charges22 July 2011
Srinagar: Massive protests engulfed the south Kashmir district of Kulgam for the second day on Friday after a local young woman alleged having been gang-raped by army personnel, even as violence and arson across the area left a number of homes damaged and two motor-cycles and an official car gutted. Street battles broke out with renewed ferocity in several areas of the district following news of the police and the paramilitary forces rampaging homes and beating up villagers during violent protests in the victimís native town of Manzgam. The inspector general of the police (IGP) for Kashmir, Shiv Morari Sahai, and his deputy, Shafaqat Watali, camped in the district throughout the day as government forces fought to gain control over the seething masses demanding punishment to the culprits. Wide-spread clashes between the protestors and the forces were said to have left nearly a dozen police and paramilitary men and an equal number of civilians injured. Thirty-year-old Ruqayya Bano of Gujjar-Dara, Manzgam was reported to be still in police custody after her allegations yesterday that she had been abducted from near her home on July 19 by two army men who then raped her for two days in a village dhok before letting her go on Wednesday. The president of the PDP, Mahbooba Mufti, joined protestors in Manzgam, refusing to leave until the police handed Ruqayya Banu back to her family. The young woman had yesterday recorded her statement before top police officers, though authorities said that she had changed her account of events at least once during the process. With three consecutive Kashmir summers having already been consumed by violence and protests over government decisions and forcesí atrocities, rulers here appeared desperate to contain the fallout of the latest incident, the first of its kind this year. The minister of state for home had dashed to the area immediately after it erupted in protest yesterday, with the state police chief accompanying him, even as media reports today suggested that Banu had recorded her statement in their presence. The police has already lodged a First Information Report (FIR) against the army whose officers have assured full cooperation in investigations into Banuís allegations. The separatist Hurriyat (G) alliance had called for protests against the Kulgam incident after Friday prayers today and a general strike on Saturday.