Kashmir calls for a bandh, as violence erupts over truck attack victim’s death
Srinagar: Violence erupted in many parts of Kashmir Valley on Sunday after a victim of the October 9 fire-bomb attack on a truck in Udhampur died in Delhi. This death triggered a demand from separatists and others, who called for a bandh on Monday, amidst violent protests and disruptions. Police sources revealed that a bandh is anticipated in the beginning of week, as protesters have decided to take out protest march in support of the deceased.
Zahid Rasool Bhat, who was being treated for serious burn injuries in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, died early on Sunday, as confirmed by police personnel. As news of the death in Delhi spread on Sunday, mobs took to the streets in the southern district of Anantnag in Kashmir Valley and blocked Jammu-Srinagar highway by burning tyres. This highway happens to be the most strategic road link between Kashmir Valley and the rest of India. Protesters resorted to stone pelting and threw stones at security personnel who tried to disperse them with tear gas, triggering street battles.
Meanwhile, separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik and local traders, transporters and manufacturers unions called for a complete protest shutdown on Monday against the incident. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the state government was to blame for Bhat’s death as it failed to provide security to the truckers.
Zahid Bhat and another Kashmiri from Anantnag district, Showkat Ahmad Dar, 35, sustained major injuries when a mob hurled a petrol bomb on their stationary truck at Udhampur on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. The attackers, identified as a total of five, namely – Sandoor Singh, Danish alias Pamma, Harish Singh, Balbahadur Singh and Varinder Singh alias Kaka – were booked with murder charges added to the FIR, besides being accused of rioting and stoking communal passion, under the Public Safety Act, normally used against terrorists in the country’s only Muslim-majority state.
The attack took place following a beef party hosted by independent legislator Engineer Rashid in Srinagar. Both the victims of the attack were flown to Safdarjung Hospital, where Zahid succumbed to his injuries.Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had visited the injured at the hospital three days back.
Amidst protests over his death, Bhat’s body was flown from Delhi to Kashmir on Sunday evening in a state-owned aircraft, which was received at the Srinagar airport by ruling Peoples Democratic Party president and Lok Sabha member Mehbooba Mufti, state Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, and state Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Syed Basharat Bukhari, besides state police chief K. Rajendra Kumar and other senior officials.
A large contingent of police and paramilitary forces formed part of the convoy in which the body was taken to Batango village in Anantnag district, where the burial would take place. People gathered in large numbers, on the highway from Bijbehara town onwards to Batango village, 52 km from Srinagar city.
Former chief ministers Dr. Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah expressed shock over the death of the youth and blamed the BJP and its ruling alliance partners for stoking communal passions which led to the Udhampur attack. Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed too condoled the death of the youth and assured speedy investigation.
In the wake of the bandh call, major events and schools and colleges are expected to be closed down this Monday as a security measure.