Kargil tense as students go on a rampage
22 August 2001
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Kargil is tense again. But this time not as a consequence of skirmishes with Pakistan along the border. The town witnessed pitched street battles between the agitating student community and policemen on Tuesday. At the end of the day, 13 persons, mainly policemen were being treated for wounds they sustained in the day-long clashes. 22 students were jailed and an enraged chief minister returned to Srinagar without addressing a scheduled public meeting in this town, 204 km north of Srinagar. Angry mobs of students joined by “other elements” swooped down on the venue before Dr Farooq Abdullah arrived at the historic Polo Grounds. They smashed the public address system, uprooted National Conference flags at the venue and also torched the dais, hysterically shouting: “Farooq Abdullah go back,” and “We don’t want National Conference here.” The news of the violence reached the chief minister while he was attending a meeting of the state Cabinet and the Kargil district development board at the Circuit House, not far from the scene of the mob frenzy. Incidentally, the meeting approved an additional outlay of Rs 7 crores for the development of Kargil, raising its annual plan for the year 2001-2002 to Rs 47 crores. Several other developmental schemes were also okayed for Kargil, which included the creation of five medical aid centres to augment medical facilities and plans to upgrade educational institutions in the district. The students who turned violent reportedly after they were intercepted by policemen on the way to the Circuit House, were agitating over commuting problems they faced after the town’s higher secondary institution was shifted to a new campus at Minji, some 6 km from the Kargil city centre. They demanded that either the school be shifted back to its original place in the middle of the town or they be provided with transport to commute between the town centre and Minji. The police used bamboo sticks and fired teargas canisters into the violent mobs which frequently targeted the police with stones and other missiles. Earlier the agitating students also forced shopkeepers to bring their shutters down. They then attempted to march to Circuit House and the police stopped them at the Islamia School Chowk. Official sources said that 10 policemen including the district superintendent of police and 3 others were injured in the clashes. Other reports suggested that 22 agitators were taken into custody. Witnesses told The Asian Age over the telephone that the policemen ruthlessly beat up students and any other youth who came their way. A spokesperson of the NC alleged that the student community at Kargil was “exploited” and “misled” by vested interests bent to run down the Farooq Abdullah government.