Srinagar: Government forces fired pellets and teargas canisters into a peaceful pro-freedom rally in Pinjoora area of Shopian district on Sunday morning, injuring more than 130, many of them seriously.
For the past four days, the people of the area had been making preparations for the rally scheduled at a local park. Tens of hundreds of youths had volunteered to make preparations for tents, food and beverages and other arrangements.
Many of the injured people who were admitted to the SMHS Hospital told Kashmir Reader that the forces, especially the personnel from the infamous counterinsurgency wing of police, the Special Operations Group appeared hell bent on thwarting the event.
On Sunday morning, a large contingent of police and paramilitary soldiers headed towards the venue to take control of it. The locals had already blocked the roads leading to the venue with logs and other things to prevent the forces from entering the area.
“At around 6am we were at the venue and waiting for the function to start. But suddenly we heard sounds of teargas shilling and we rushed to the scene. I saw a number of youth hit by pellets being rushed to health facilities while pellet firing was on,” said a youth who sustained pellet injuries in chest. He requested his name should not be quoted.
An elderly person accompanying his son who had been hit by a teargas shell told Kashmir Reader that when the number of the injured surged, government forces took over the venue and vandalized the stage and other paraphrenalia.
He said that about 5000 people had already arrived at the venue after spending the night in the open.
“Within minutes they turned peaceful atmosphere into hell and nobody was able to breathe easily such was the intensity of teargas shelling,” said a youth accompanying an injured boy.
People from nearby villages rushed to the area after the news about the raid was announced from mosque public address systems.
“People from Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama districts started arriving and youths clashed with the forces and briefly pushed them away from the venue,” said Nazir (identified with his first name only on request), a resident of Pinjoora.
The clashes lasted for several hours, leaving more than 130 persons injured.
The furious protesters later marched towards the mini-secretariat at Shopian and set the building on fire. The building had been constructed last year at the cost of Rs 36 crore.
Medical superintendent DH Shopian Dr Nazir said at least 18 injury cases were brought to the hospital, 14 of whom with pellet injuries in eyes were referred to Srinagar.
He said about 40 people were treated at local health care facilities and many others were taken to District Hospital Kulgam and District Hospital Anantnag.
After the mayhem, local residents said, a huge seminar was held at the same venue and thousands of people from Shopian, Anantnag, Kulgam and Pulwama districts of south Kashmir attended.