Srinagar/Sopore: A group of residents from two remote hamlets in Sopore were on Wednesday detained by the police during a demonstration at Srinagar’s Press Enclave against the arrest of eight men, including three brothers, who the police claim are Lashkar-e-Toiba militants.
Within minutes of their arrival at the Press Enclave, scores of residents from Zaloora and Harwan areas of Sopore led by their respective Sarpanchs were bundled up in vehicles and taken to Kothi Bagh police station.
A few protesters who escaped detention told Kashmir Reader that they travelled all the way to Srinagar so that they could demand “justice” for the arrested men, two of whom are government employees.
On Monday, Sopore’s Superintendent of Police Abdul Qayoom was quoted by news agency GNS as saying that the arrested men had been detained earlier also but released in the “hope that they will refrain from militant activities”.
The arrested men are brothers Mohammad Qasim Gujar, Mohammad Iqbal and Hakim Din; Lateef Ahmad Gujar and Zubair Ahmad Gujar, all residents of Gujarpatti, Zaloora; Rayees Ahmad Bhat and Sajjad Ahmad Bhat, Shabir Ahmad Kumar, all residents of Harwan, Sopore.
While Lateef and Hakim Din are government employees, the rest are involved in various businesses, their family members told Kashmir Reader.
“They were not booked at that time. But they have again resorted to militant activities and there was no other way than to arrest them,” Qayoom had told the GNS.
A police handout on Sunday claimed the eight men had been “indoctrinated with jihadi ideology” and had been “conspiring with Pakistan administered Kashmir-based LeT militant Umar Khatab to carry out militant actions” in and around Sopore. The FIR, however, mentions possession of arms as the main charge against these men.
The residents have rubbished the police version as a “fabrication”. In fact, Ghulam Nabi Mir, headman of Zaloora village, told a local news agency that the eight men had been summoned to the Bomai police station by its Station House Officer and were not arrested from various areas as claimed by the police.
“All these youths, including three brothers, were handed over to the police by their respective family members in my presence. They were then shifted to (counterinsurgency centre) Cargo in Srinagar for questioning,” Mir told CNS.
After being sent back to Bomai station, Mir said, the families were told that the men would be released within a few hours.
But a few hours later, the protesters said, Major Amandeep Singh of Zaloora-based 30 Rashtriya Rifles camp arrived at the police station in a private Sumo vehicle and allegedly tortured these youths.
“Arms and ammunition brought by the major and his soldiers to the police station were laid on a table and youths were asked to stand by the table and their photographs were taken. Next day, we read in newspapers that they had been branded as Lashkar militants,” said a protester who gave only his first name Yunus.
“I have no idea where these arms and ammunition come from when these youths were handed over to the police by me,” Zaloora village headman Mir said.