Shutdown over trucker’s death, security tightened in Kashmir

  • Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Oct 19, 2015 14:27 IST
As news of the death in Delhi spread, mobs took to the streets in the southern district of Anantnag in the Kashmir Valley and blocked the Jammu-Srinagar highway by burning tyres. (HT PHOTO)

Angry youngsters protesting against the death of a trucker in a petrol bomb attack clashed with security forces on Monday even as the Kashmiri Valley was hit by a shutdown called by separatist leaders.

The protests prompted authorities to impose curfew-like restrictions in Anantnag, Bijbehara and some parts of Srinagar and place several separatists, including hardline Hurriyat leader Ali Shah Geelani and JKDFP leader Shabir Ahmad Shah, under house arrest.

Zahid Ahmed, 19, who suffered 70% burns in the petrol bomb attack in Udhampur on October 10, succumbed to his injuries at New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on Sunday. Activists of a right-wing group opposed to the transportation of cows were allegedly behind the attack.

Dozens of youngsters clashed with security forces at Batengoo in Anantnag district after Ahmed’s funeral despite the presence of a large contingent of security forces in the village, located 52 km from Srinagar.

Police and CRPF personnel used teargas and batons to control the situation. A senior police officer in Srinagar said troops had been directed to exercise maximum restraint while handling law and order.

Watch: Shutdown in Kashmir over trucker’s death, security tightened

Earlier, Ahmed’s body was taken in a procession from his home to the graveyard amid tight security. The mourners shouted slogans in support of ‘azadi’ (independence) and local Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, and a youngster was spotted carrying a Pakistani flag.

Protests had erupted in Batengoo as soon as news of Ahmed’s death spread on Sunday. His body was flown from Delhi to Srinagar in a state government aircraft.

The Jammu-Srinagar national highway remained closed for the second day on Monday as protestors blocked it in Anantnag district. The railways suspended trains between the southern and northern parts of the Kashmir Valley because protesters placed obstructions on the tracks.

The movement of people was restricted in Anantnag and Bijbehara areas of southern Jammu and Kashmir. Similar restrictions were imposed in six police station areas of Srinagar, which too witnessed protests on Sunday.

Kashmiri women walk past police patrol after clashes with Kashmiri protestors in Srinagar on October 18, 2015. (AFP)

PSA slapped on accused

Ahmed was the conductor of the truck that was attacked with petrol bombs. The driver of the truck, Showkat Ahmed, too was injured and admitted to hospital.

Nine people were arrested for the attack and five of them – Sandoor Singh, Danesh alias Pamma, Harish Singh Katoch, Balbahadur Singh alias Abbu and Varinder Singh alias Kaka – were booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

The decision to book them under the PSA was made by the magistrate of Udhampur district after a dossier submitted by police pointed to their criminal history. According to the dossier, they were booked for executing a criminal conspiracy aimed at disturbing peace in the state.

The attack followed a shutdown in Udhampur and Reasi districts over reports about the slaughter of cows. Authorities have said that three cows found dead in the area were not slaughtered, but had died after eating poisonous fodder.

Cabinet condemns Udhampur attack

The Jammu and Kashmir cabinet on Monday passed a resolution condemning the petrol bomb attack that caused Ahmed’s death and lauded the people for maintaining peace and calm.

Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who chaired the cabinet meeting, moved the resolution. “The Cabinet adopted the resolution in one voice. Later two minutes’ silence was observed as a mark of respect for the departed soul,” an official spokesman said.

The Cabinet decided Rs 5 lakh would be paid as compensation to Ahmed’s family and a government job provided to one of his relatives.

Omar Abdullah targets govt

Targeting the state and Central governments, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said they cannot wash their hands off the issue.

“Another needless death in the name of #BeefBan for which the BJP & its affiliates including allies are directly responsible. And to think that all the state government could do was to throw 10,000 rupees at #Zahid and wash its hands off the whole thing #BeefMurder,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The Hon PM passed the buck on to @yadavakhilesh & the UP Govt for #Dadri. Who will he blame for #Zahid’s death now???” he questioned.

Separatist leader Ali Shah Geelani called for a complete shutdown to protest against Ahmed’s death. The move was supported by moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik.

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