Kashmir valley tense amid anti-Pak demonstraions
3 June 2000
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: Police resorted to baton charge at several places as angry Shia demonstrators today took out processions in protest against Friday''s IED blast at Gund Khwaja Qasim, Pattan. Even as the injured religious leader, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, was stated to be alright and discharged from hospital, men from Shia community converged on streets, forced a shutdown, pelted stones on vehicles and shouted slogans against Pakistan and those who did the blast at a purely religious function. Shia community began the 4-day long mourning with the burial of 12 dead bodies and Fatiha Khwani at graveyards. On the request of Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan played an important role in making the people believe that the Shia cleric, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, had just injuries of mild intensity and there was nothing to worry about. Still, none could stop them from coming on the streets and registering a vibrant protest against the blast. As already reported, 12 persons had got killed and 30 others injured - including president of J&K Shia Association Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari - when an extremely powerful blast occurred at a Majlis-e-Hussaini, at Gund Khwaja Qasim last evening. Three of the killed, who remained unidentified last evening, have now been identified as Zakir Syed Hyder S-o Syed Ali R-o Dadina Budgam, presently Ahmedpora Magam, Showkat Ali Mir S-o Mohammad Ishaq Mir of Ali Park Zadibal and Ghulam Hassan Malla S-o Ghulam Ahmed Malla of Qumiroo, Beerwah. Right from the morning, there were strong demonstrations from all Shia-dominated localities as thousands of agitated people shouted slogans in condemnation of the incident. The veiled slogan ''Hussainiyat Zindabad, Yazeediyat Murdabad'' was dominant everywhere. However, at several places, the demonstrators chanted naked slogans against Pakistan and militants holding them responsible for the sabotage of a religious ceremony. reports said that at Magam people even shouted slogans against the State Government. Police and Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah while alleging that the sabotage was the result of a grave security lapse. Two Deputy Commissioners told EXCELSIOR that the incensed people also raised pro-India slogans at six different places. At two places in Dal Lake area, there were even provocative slogans and stone-pelting but soon the responsible elements prevailed and ensured that there was no sectarian disharmony. The buzz word, excessively played up by politicians, was that the terrorists do not possess any sect or religion. Independent reports said that at most of the places, the politicians and senior citizens controlled the situation and the peoples'' ire remained restricted to ''the killers''. While as the mainstream politicians - including the injured Maulvi Iftikhar - used the official electronic media and exhorted the people to maintain the traditional religious and sectarian harmony, the Hurriyat too condemned the incident and played a significant role in maintenance of peace and sectarian brotherhood. Invariably, both cautioned that the blast was ''a conspiracy to foment the sectarian trouble'' in Valley. Hurriyat, however, added that the ''vested interests'' were out to create the ''anti-movement'' scenario. Reports said that there was total shutdown in the Shia-dominated Ichhigam-Budgam-Beerwah, Budgam-Bemina, Magam-Pattan-Sonawari belts as also in the Srinagar localities of Hassanabad, Dal Lake, Shalimar, Lalbazar and Zadibal and Padraithan. At several places the demonstrators burnt rubber tyres on streets, pelted stones on buses and cars, forced the shopkeepers to pull down the shutters and imposed a complete bandh. In the capital city, vehicular traffic did not operate beyond Nowhatta while as the tourist traffic to Gulmarg remained fully disrupted due to the daylong disturbances at Zainakote and Magam. Inspite of certain provocations, the majority sect of Sunni Muslims exercised full restraint and exhibited a sense of maturity and responsibility. Tension eased out remarkably when the question arose how a particular community could be held responsible for an incident in the unending ''agency warfare'' between India and Pakistan. There was further improvement in situation when the Hurriyat finally broke the ice and leaders like Yaseen Malik, Dr Hubbi and GM Bhat visited the bereaved families and expressed their shock over, what they described, the ''heart-rending, unfortunate incident''. Reports said that police used baton charge and fired several shots in air at Magam and Gagarpora when the processionists resorted to stone-pelting and closed Srinagar-Gulmarg road. Police dispersed the mob and created a curfew-like situation. Residents told EXCELSIOR that in a stampede at Agarh Morh, near Magam, a 20-year-old bus-conductor of Drooru Tangmarg was knocked down by a police Gypsy and he died on spot. Eerlier, processions from several localities poured in at Gund Khwaja Qasim and paid tributes to the twelve innocent civilians killed in the blast. People fanned out in the grassfields and climbed the lofty trees to collect the amputated organs of the dead bodies. Mohammad Abbas of Ahmedpora, who was in the religious gathering at the time of the blast, said that Ansari had a real miraculous escape. He said that Ansari''s radio operator Bashir Ahmed Gazi''s dead body flung upto 200 ft and it was later recovered from a house. Even more miraculous was the survival of an 8-year-old girl who was thrown over the roof-top of the nearby Imambara but she fell inside on the floor, through the damaged roof, and had no injuries or fractures. It was observed today that there had been no anti-sabotage check-up of the spot before the Maulvi''s arrival. The IED seemed to have been laid about two ft underground and the same, planted in a tin, had been tied to the roots of a Chinar with the help of 6-inch long nails. A quilt had been laid over it on which Ansari sat for over half-an-hour before he shifted the base and began his sermon. Those who stayed back on the quilt, including the 75-year-old Syed Hyder of Ahmedpora, were blown into pieces. Sharpnels flung even onto Ansari - who was just 8 ft from the killer spot - but the brunt was faced by his radio operator and he survived the blast aimed on him.