- Clashes rock Bijbehara, Botengoo; around a dozen people injured; Malik, Mir hit during lathi charge, detained; protests in Maisuma
ANANTNAG: Amidst a complete shutdown, fierce clashes continued between government forces and protesting youths in Anantnag and other townships of this southern district for the third running day, on Tuesday, against the murder Zahid Bhat of Botengoo, who was set ablaze by a Hindu mob in Udhampur district of Jammu on October 9, and later succumbed to his injuries.
Government forces also thrashed and detained JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik and his associates while he was trying to lead a march from Zahid’s native village.
All shops, business establishments, educational institutions and petrol pumps remained shut in Anantnag, Bijbehara , Mattan, Achabal and other townships, while traffic also remained off the roads. Police and paramilitary forces in riot gear and equipped with sophisticated weapons were deployed in strength in areas in the townships since early morning to scuttle any protests.
However, trouble began in the Lal Chowk area of the town when CRPF men thrashed an auto-rickshaw driver and some pedestrians. The beating of the driver angered youths, who then pelted stones on the government forces, who responded with tears gas shells. The clashes soon spread to other localities of the town including Laizbal, Cheeni Chowk, Mattan Chowk, Kadipora, Khanabal Chowk and Anchidora.
In Bijbehara, the hometown of CM Mufti Sayeed, youths came out onto the streets early morning and tried to take out a protest rally. The government forces prevented them from moving towards the national highway by resorting to a lathi charge, which led to clashes. The protesting youths hurled rocks and bricks at the government forces, who retaliated with intense tear gas shelling.
The protestors, organising themselves into various groups, continued pelting stones on the forces near main chowk Goriwan, Ariwani crossing and Sadar Bazar. During the day-long fierce clashes in the township, nearly a dozen people were injured after being hit by tear gas canisters. “Six injured were brought to hospital, and were discharged after being given first aid,” hospital sources told Kashmir Reader.
In Botengoo, violent clashes broke out between government forces and youths after the former detained JKLF chairman Yasin Malik and his associates when he tried to take out a rally towards Anantnag. Witnesses said that after offering condolences to Zahid’s family, Malik went to the graveyard and offered special prayers for the deceased. From there, Malik started marching towards Anantnag, but government forces deployed in the area tried to stop him from moving ahead. As Malik and his associates resisted, they were lathi charged and forcibly bundled into a police vehicle. Witnesses said that Malik was hit during the lathi charge.
This angered protesters, and fierce clashes ensued. Forces resorted to heavy tear gas shelling to disperse the stone-throwing youth, but the latter did not relent. Clashes continued in the village for several hours.
In Maisuma, where Malik lives, scores of protesters blocked the road and shouted slogans against the government for manhandling and detaining the JKLF chief. Police and paramilitary troopers used tear and pepper gas to disperse the protesters. Local residents accused the forces of smashing glass panes of vehicles and houses.
Meanwhile, people from many localities of Bijbehara and Anantnag alleged that CRPF men, after failing to chase away the stone-throwing youths, went berserk and smashed the windows of houses and parked vehicles. “Besides breaking window panes, the government forces fired several tear gas shells directly towards the houses,” said a resident of Bijbehara.