SRINAGAR: A marathon organised by an FM radio station and sponsored by government departments and private business houses was marked by a pro-freedom protest, interspersed with stone pelting on police, for about two hours on Sunday.
“Big Kashmir Marathon’ consisted of 21-km half marathon and ‘run-for-fun’, which were flagged off from Kashmir University at 6.30am. The organizers claimed that about 30,000 people participated in the events.
According to eye witnesses, when the race finished, some participants started shouting pro-freedom slogans and threw bottles at the platform where state guests were seated.
“Then many others joined them. They shouted ‘go India go back’ and ‘we want freedom’. One of them, carrying a Pakistani flag, ran toward the platform. After that I couldn’t figure out what was happening,” said Mohammad Ashraf, whose two children had participated in the event.
Irrigation minister Sukhnandan Kumar, Divisional commissioner and secretary tourism were among the guests. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah and sports minister Imran Ansari, who had announced their attendance, did not turn up.
There are two versions of why the protest erupted.
Many protestors, who had registered themselves for the marathon, told Kashmir Reader that they participated in the event considering it to be an apolitical event.
“We protested when we realised that it has been turned into a political event. The organizers had invited BJP leader and other bureaucrats. Do they expect us to shower flowers at them? The persons sharing dais were party to India’s occupation in Kashmir,” said Adil, a teenager.
According to Hazratbal superintendent of police Rayees Mohammad, however, accomplices of many miscreants, whom the police caught molesting some girls, shouted slogans and threw stones.
“At university and then at Habbak crossing our cops spotted many miscreants harassing girls. We have arrested 12 persons on charges of rioting, vandalizing government property and eve teasing,” Rayees said.
But Muzaffar Shah, station head of the Big 92.7 FM and organizer of the event, denied the police’s version.
“No girl was molested during the event, neither did anyone complain of molestation. It was just some miscreants who tried to disrupt the successful event,” Shah said.
President Peoples Democratic Party Mehbooba Mufti said that it was the handiwork of “miscreants” and all of them would be dealt with firmly.
“If people are seeking solution to Kashmir issue by raising slogans and flags let them do that but to assault our sisters will not be tolerated at any cost,” she said.
Education Minister and government spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said a handful of “disruptive elements do not want positive messages to come out of the state because they will lose their jobs”.
“Such people tried to portray the event and our state in a negative manner but they have miserably failed,” Akhtar said.