Protesters block highway in J&K
23 February 2006
Handwara: A day after four boys were killed in a shootout in Dudhipora village in Jammu and Kashmir, hundreds of people took to the streets on Thursday in protest against the Army action. They demanded action against the personnel involved. Authorities promptly took some separatist leaders into preventive custody and put hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani under house arrest. Rejecting the inquiry ordered by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday, residents of the village, near here, demanded a judicial probe. Protesters, carrying the bodies of the four youths, went in a procession to Kulangam town and blocked the Srinagar-Kupwara Highway. Raising slogans, they refused to bury the bodies until the Government announced action against the culprits. They stoned the police station. Police fired in the air to disperse the crowd. The residents refuted the Army spokesman's statement on Wednesday that two of the youths had links with militants.'Let them prove it. It is a white lie,' they said. People also raised slogans against the Superintendent of Handwara. 'He has given a wrong statement saying there was an encounter. We have not seen any militant,' they said. Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Basharat Ahmed Dhar and Inspector- General of Police K. Rajendra visited Handwara and held a series of meetings with the agitators. The protesters demanded a court of inquiry against the 33 Rashtriya Rifles personnel, replacement of the existing unit and deployment of a police unit in the village. The officials offered ex-gratia and jobs to the next kin of the deceased. In Srinagar, separatist leaders condemned the killings and staged a march towards Handwara. The police arrested JKLF chief Yasin Malik in Sopore and Shabir Ahmed Shah and Ashraf Sehrai near Pattan. JKLF leader Javed Mir was held in Regal Chowk area while leading a demonstration. Speaking to The Hindu on phone,Mr. Malik said the shooting was the third such incident in five months. At a press conference, Mr. Geelani gave out a call for a two-day bandh. The moderate Hurriyat faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq sent a memorandum to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Mirwaiz also called for a bandh on Friday. The Dukhtaran-Millat, Khwateen Kashmir, the People's Democratic Party and the National Conference condemned the killings.