Srinagar: A concrete bunker was bulldozed in the main Handwara square on Tuesday apparently to pacify the locality which has been agitating for the past one week and where two youths were shot dead last Tuesday, leading to a series of protests during which two more people were killed. A woman had died after being hit by a stray bullet.
The agitation started after a soldier from one of the three bunkers in the square was spotted near a toilet, constructed and used by the soldiers, where a minor girl had reportedly gone to answer nature’s call. Two of the bunkers had been demolished by the protesters the same day and the one that was demolished today had been set afire and damaged extensively.
Handwara was under curfew for the past week and demolition of the bunker coincided with lifting restrictions. Shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, people hung a banner at the spot where the bunker stood and named the square as Shaheed Nayeem Chowk, after Nayeem Ahmad Bhat, a promising cricketer who was shot dead by army/police.
The police arrested a college student, Hilal Ahmad Banday, whose name surfaced in the video statement of the girl, which had been recorded inside a police station. Hilal has been lodged at District Police Lines, Handwara.
Hilal is a first-year student at the Handwara Degree College. He also helps his brothers at their hardware shop in the main chowk.
The police have also launched a manhunt to arrest the other youngster who had allegedly assaulted the girl.
“Hilal baya, you know me,” the girl says in the video, after being slapped by another boy who had purportedly told her “have Kashmiris died”.
The girl had said that Hilal too appeared to be in league with the boys who had slapped her and attempted to snatch her bag.
After seven days of curfew, clashes, violence and strike the normal life resumed in violence hit Handwara and Kupwara towns of north Kashmir on Tuesday returned to normalcy.
Though the curfew was relaxed in the town, the shops, business units and educational institutes remained closed in Handwara and Kupwara towns.
The bunkers were demolished in presence of social welfare minister Sajjad Ghani Lone who represents Handwara constituency in the state assembly. Lone addressed the people who had assembled to watch the demolition.
The locals said that other bunkers in the area should also be removed to avoid repetition of such incidents.
“There are many more bunkers and army posts very close to the schools, colleges and other public places. The authorities should remove these bunkers as soon as possible to avoid more clashes and friction,” Fayaz Ahmad, a local resident said.