Srinagar: CRPF and police Saturday used batons and fired teargas canisters to break up protests over the demolition of 18 “illegal” structures by the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) in Ashai Bagh area of this capital city.
Early morning, continents of CRPF troopers and police converged at the police station Nigeen to assist the LAWDA officials to remove the illegal structures erected over the stretch between Ashai Bagh and Saida Kadal, eyewitnesses told Kashmir Reader Saturday. The news of demolition drive brought hundreds of men; women and children to streets who staged anti-government demonstrations. The protesters alleged that the LAWDA officials were discriminating against the populace with their ‘pick and choose’ policy. The protesters also fought pitched battles with the forces near Ranger Stop when the LAWDA officials pressed men and machinery to dismantle the illegal structures. The clashes that continued for over two hours, also affected the movement of traffic on the Lal Chowk-Hazratbal road. The traffic was diverted through Lal Bazar due to outbreak of clashes.
“The LAWDA authorities have always targeted us. Why don’t they dismantle palatial houses and hotels that have come up in posh area of Nishat, Shalimar and Nigeen? Why different yardstick for rich and poor?” a visibly angry protester, Sajad Hussain, told Kashmir Reader.
Hussain alleged that several LAWDA officials made fortunes by take hefty bribes from gullible people for allowing structures only to be demolished after few months.
“The government should come clear with its policy. The LAWDA officials have been given free hand to loot the people on the promise of allowing structures. The government should either relocate us, or allow us to repair our dilapidated houses,” he said.
Vice-Chairman, LWWDA, Shafaat Noor Barlas did not attend repeated phone calls by Kashmir Reader.
However, a senior police official told Kashmir Reader that the locals staged protests when the demolition drive started this morning. However, despite protests, he said, the LWWDA officials dismantled several structures including workshops constructed illegally in the green belt.
“The locals staged protests in the area. They even pelted stones on the forces. However, no one was injured in the demolition drive that was conducted in the first half of the day,” he said.
Meanwhile, the protests and clashes also resulted in disruption of traffic on the Hazratbal- Rainawari road .