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JEHANGIR ALI | 19 JULY, 2015

KASHMIR TENSIONS BOIL OVER: CLASHES MARK EID, 7 BOOKED FOR SEDITION


SRINAGAR: Intense clashes broke out between forces and sloganeering youths in many parts of Jammu and Kashmir after the Eid prayers during which at least seven people were booked for sedition and dozens, including security personnel, suffered injuries.

A J&K Police officer said several people were injured and dozens of vehicles damaged in violent clashes that erupted in Anantnag town of south Kashmir Saturday morning.

He said hundreds of protesters chanting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans surfaced in old town, Cheeni Chowk and Lal Chowk areas after Eid prayers and clashed with security forces. Some of the protesters also waved Pakistani flags.

"We used teargas and baton-charge to disperse the protesters who retaliated with stones, sparking violent clashes during which dozens of persons, including security personnel, were injured," he said.

Locals alleged that police and CRPF troopers went on rampage in the violence affected areas of Cheeni Chowk and Reeshi Bazar, smashing the windowpanes of houses and private vehicles.

"A police party barged into several houses in old town and beat up the inmates, ransacked household goods and damaged dozens of private vehicles," a resident of Cheeni Chowk in Anantnag said. He said the forces even assaulted old men, children and women and abused them.

The police, however, denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, protests erupted outside Jamia Masjid in summer capital Srinagar soon after the Eid prayers. A large crowd of youths shouting pro-Pakistan, pro-freedom and anti-India slogans appeared outside the mosque, waving Pakistani flags, and clashed with forces.

Police and paramilitary forces, who were deployed in strength to control the protests, fired teargas shells at the demonstrators who pelted stones at them. The exchange between the two sides continued for nearly two hours.

In north Kashmir’s Baramulla, protests were staged after Eid prayers in the restive Sopore town where six civilians were killed by unknown gunmen recently. Veteran Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Geelani, who hails from Sopore, was detained at his office-cum-residence in Srinagar while his activists held a protest demonstration at Hyderpora Jamia Masjid where he normally offers prayers.

Meanwhile, the J&K Police booked seven persons, including a teacher employed by the government, for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans during Eid procession at the communally restive Kishtwar town Saturday morning.

Reports said a large crowd of Muslims from various parts of Kishtwar district, who had assembled at Chowgan, took out a procession after Eid prayers towards a shrine at Ahsan Bala.

Witnesses told The Citizen that the community leaders in the procession had issued clear instruction to the crowd not to raise any provocative slogans. However, as the procession marched on, some youths started raising pro-freedom and pro-Pakistan slogans.

A senior J&K Police officer said the procession passed through an area of the other community while the tempers were flaring up, "We got the situation under control by nabbing seven persons who had raised provocative slogans," the officer said.

Among the seven arrested is a government teacher identified as Abdul Gani of Marwah who has been engaged by the state government under the Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) programme. All of them have been booked on charges of sedition.

The officer said more arrests are likely in the matter as police had filmed the entire procession as a precautionary measure in view of communal tensions in the town.

Three people were killed and over 80 injured in clashes between two communities after some people pelted stones on an Eid procession in the town in 2013. In the subsequent riots, dozens of shops and other structures were gutted along with private and public properties. A one-man judicial commission indicted the then home minister of the state and National Conference leader, Sajad Kitchloo, among nearly five dozen people, including senior IAS and IPS officers, for their role in violence.

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