Udhampur Bomb Attack Victims Return Compensation in Protest
SRINAGAR: Accusing the state government of trying to "shelve" the case, the families of Udhampur petrol bomb victims said they have returned the monetary assistance offered by the state government in protest against "harassment" by district officials.
Escorted to the capital Srinagar by the independent legislator Engineer Rashid, the family members of Showkat Ahmad Dar and Zahid Ahmad Bhat, who are undergoing treatment at New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, narrated their ordeal during a press conference here Wednesday.
"We were threatened by the deputy commissioner and tehsildar of Anantnag. They said we will be arrested and booked under the PSA if we highlight the issue before media,” said Ghulam Mohammad Dar, father of one of the victims, Showkat Ahmad Dar.
Dar and Bhat suffered severe burn injuries when suspected right-wing activists hurled a petrol bomb at a stationary truck in Jammu's Udhampur district on October 9, sparking resentment in Kashmir Valley where a shutdown was called on Monday by separatists in protest against the attack.
Muneer-ul-Islam, deputy commissioner of Anantnag, said the government shifted the victims to Safdarjung hospital on the next day of the incident and also gave monetary assistance to their families for meeting the expenses of treatment.
"Three of their relatives wanted to fly to New Delhi. We arranged air tickets for them and also gave Rs 20,000 to each family. I had also promised them more assistance. Then another relative came to my home in the night and he wanted to go to New Delhi. We arranged a ticket for him as well but he also demanded cash which was not possible in the night," Muneer said.
However Ghulam Mohammad Dar and Ghulam Rasool Bhat, father of another victim, Zahid Ahmad said they returned the cash to chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed during an event at Anantnag on Tuesday.
"We handed over the cash and cheques in an envelope to the chief minister and he took it without seeing what was in it. We are being harassed by the authorities; they want us to remain silent and shelve the case. We don't need any money from the government. We want only justice," Bhat said, adding that the "paltry compensation" is not enough to meet the treatment expenses.
The deputy commissioner, however, said the government is bearing the cost of the victims' treatment and their relatives have been put up at Kashmir House in New Delhi. "The government will ensure that they (the families of victims) don't have to spend a penny on their treatment," he said.
Meanwhile, terming the October 9 petrol bomb attack as a "terrorist attack" on "secular credentials" of the state, Engineer Rashid accused the government of showing "apathy" towards the victims. "The kingpin of the attack is still at large. The same government which takes no time to arrest people even on frivolous charges in Kashmir is lacking the same enthusiasm in Jammu," Rashid said
He also handed over Rs 2 lakh which, he said, were collected from his friends, to the victims' families. "I will accompany them to Delhi tomorrow and make sure that the victims receive the best of treatment," Rashid said.
He said another truck driver, Siyar Ahmad, of Mirbazaar Qazigund in Anantnag was also attacked by miscreants at Udhampur. However, the government officer said only two persons were injured in the Udhampur attack.
The J&K Police has arrested six people involved in attack and they have been booked under Public Safety Act. A manhunt has been launched to nab other accused.