SRINAGAR: A nearly 10-hour stone-throwing battle at Shalteng, the neighbourhood of slain militant Dawood Sofi, ended Friday evening only after police held two conversations with the stone throwers, a least-known modality adopted for calming down protests.
The conversations, according to one of the police officers, were held despite more than 20 policemen, among them many senior officers, suffering serious injuries from the stones hurled at them.
“It was one of the fieriest stone-pelting in recent years, to which we exercised maximum restraint. Our 20 personnel were injured, with the SP West’s hand fractured and face injured, the SHO Parimpora and his PSO receiving injuries in their jaw and cheeks,” SDPO West, Musadiq, told Kashmir Reader.
“We held two conversations – one led by me, and another by SSP Srinagar himself. Though the first conversation was not effective, the second one, in which elders prevailed, brought to an end the stone-pelting which had not calmed down for hours together,” he added.
Musadiq said about 200 men were deployed to prevent the protest. He said the paramilitary CRPF had been kept back, and only police responded to the stone-pelters. He said minimum use of ammunition such as tear gas and pellets was made, and not even a single bullet fired. Many stone-throwers whom this reporter spoke to confirmed this police version.
“There were about 10,000 people, nearly 4,000 civilians who engaged in stone-pelting. They fought at their threshold levels, but we maintained restraint. Ideally, such number of people can be controlled in an hour if dealt with force, but it took us hours, and two conversations with them, to ensure peace,” Musadiq said.
The stone throwing began at around 11 in the morning as soon as the news of Dawood Sofi’s killing spread. Most hardcore stone-throwers from downtown and semi-urban areas assembled at Shalteng to have a pitched stone fight with police, Musadiq added.
“During the conversations, we went directly into the mob. They attacked us with stones which hit our bodies. But we did not retaliate. We talked. Elders in the group adopted a retaliatory tone, while youngsters continued their unruly acts. In the first meeting, there was no result, but in the second, stone-pelting became less intensified,” he said.
One of the stone-throwers, on condition of anonymity, told Kashmir Reader that it was one of the fiercest street battles fought, but for the first time police had used less force to control it. He said many boys went several times very close to the police vehicles and hit them with rocks. He said the boys did not budge when police fired pellets and teargas shells.
“We used corrugated tin sheets to protect our bodies from pellets. But police seemed to be maintaining an unusually low profile; they did not charge at us the way they used to,” another stone-thrower said.
Normally during such protests, the CRPF would take lead in dealing with it. Government forces would use ammunition uninterruptedly to quell the protest. Friday was one of the rare days when this method was not used.
“DIG Police congratulated us for the day’s work,” Musadiq added.