Srinagar: Frequent police raids carried out to nab youths on charges of stone pelting are giving sleepless nights to Habba Kadal locals who alleged that the police’s actions have “unleashed hell” in the area.
The assault, they say, is especially directed towards Zaindar Mohalla, the home area of senior separatist leader Masarat Alam.
Locals said the police have intensified raids after the recent protests. “This Tuesday, some boys pelted stones at forces near the Habba Kadal Chowk,” said Ghulam Nabi Sofi, a local. “Later, the police turned up at my residence and asked about my son. On finding my son missing from home, the police party led by SHO Shaheed Gunj Police Station arrested me.” At the police station, Sofi learned that he had been arrested as the police wanted his son for his alleged involvement in stone-pelting.
Sofi’s son, Tanzeel, who studies in Class 12, runs a shop in Habba Kadal. He said he often faces police harassment for his past when he used to pelt stones to vent his rage against “police excesses”. “But now,” Tanzeel said, “my past is well behind me. I support the freedom struggle and that doesn’t make me a criminal. But the fact is I don’t pelt stones anymore, and yet the police harass me.”
During the raid, said Tanzeel’s mother Taja Begum, the police party beat the family, including her. “They were so cruel. They used bad language. They told me that my son is pelting stones and went berserk.” While playing down the alleged harassment of the Sofi family, SSP Srinagar Amit Kumar said the father was arrested to get information about his son. “Next day, we let him go,” Kumar said, “And yes, there is no question of using bad language and harassing the family. The police don’t do that.”
Pertinently, separatist leaders have been decrying police raids and arrests of youth in the old city. They have argued that such actions push youngsters to the wall and sometimes make them choose dangerous means to settle scores, like picking up guns.
But in Habba Kadal and in other areas of the old city, the police raids continue. Recently, a 12-year-old boy, Umar Khan from Zaindar Mohalla was also arrested by the police on charges of stone-pelting. But his mother said Umar had nothing to do with stone pelting. “He went out to buy bread and had fifty rupees in his hand,” she said. “They took him away on the pretext of stone pelting charges.”