Residents allege harassment, police deny witch-hunting
SRINAGAR: For last few weeks, police station Soura has launched a “witch-hunt” in Soura and its adjoining areas to nab “stone-pelters”. Residents of the area allege that the raids have created a “dreadful atmosphere”.
Police, however, claim that the arrested youth have cases registered against them for stone throwing.
Residents say that police officials stalk suspects throughout the day in the main market Soura and station their vehicles at entrance points of by-lanes, where they frisk and harass inhabitants.
“Main market (Soura) is like a trap for us,” said a resident in his early 20s who, like most people here, was unwilling to be identified. “If we have to go to market to buy medicines or groceries, we are not sure whether we can escape the dragnet. Since the last more than six months, we have been avoiding the market and stay within the interior localities.”
Similar worries are voiced by youth from the neighbouring localities of Soura and Anchar. Youth here say that on several occasions over the past three months, there have been frequent arrests of street vendors, minor boys and other youth who have never thrown stones at police.
The local vegetable market that used to be crowded with buyers has now been sealed off by police. The residents say that police particularly targets youth and puts them behind bars. After outcry over the arrests, locals allege, police try to “link the arrested persons falsely” with stone-throwing incidents.
Residents of these areas say that the continuous vigil and harassment by police has created a “fear-psychosis”, particularly among minors and school-going children.
“Children take alternate routes to avoid police frisking. At times, they abandon their classes due to fear of police raids. Few months ago, police raided a private school, Standard Public School, to nab a minor over alleged stone-pelting. Since then, fear of police raid is consistent,” another local resident said pleading anonymity.
Police officials, however, claim that arrested persons have been involved in stone-pelting incidents in Soura area. “We don’t arrest anyone arbitrarily. When we have proof against the involved persons, only then we arrest them. Neither was any minor nor any school-going child arrested by us,” Station House Officer police station Soura Ayaz Jeelani told Kashmir Reader.
He said that vendors were removed because they were creating hurdles in smooth moment of vehicles, and that High Court has ordered the police to act against encroachments on roads.
“We have clear instruction from Divisional Commissioner and High Court to remove all roadside encroachments curtailing the traffic moment. Besides, patients visiting SKIMS and its branches were facing various problems in reaching here. Those complaints have now reduced drastically,” says SDPO Soura, Rameez Rashid.
Earlier in the morning, a group of women from Soura and adjacent areas protested in front of police station Soura, alleging the arbitrary arrest of a 20-year-old boy, Adil Ahmad. The youth was granted bail and released from Central Jail, Srinagar, only to be arrested again.
Ahmad’s family told Kashmir Reader that he was picked up minutes after he was released from Central Jail. “He (Adil) has other cases registered against him at police station Soura,” Rameez said.