Arrests trigger more protests in Kashmir
17 April 2007
Srinagar: As the protests against the arrest of a couple and two others involved in a plot to assassinate Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad continued in Banihal, over 40 people began an indefinite hunger strike on Tuesday to press for their release. The protests began after four persons — Farooq Ahmad Wani and his wife Haseena of Duligam, Banihal, Abdur Rashid of Nowkoot Banihal, and Muhammad Akhter of Shagen Banihal were arrested on a charge that they were involved in a plot to kill the Chief Minister during a public rally in Ramban on April 12. The police said the four were intending to carry out a fidayeen attack on the Chief Minister's rally with the help of the Lashker-e-Taiba militants. However, the locals refuted the allegations saying that Mr. Farooq was a Congress activist and all the four were innocents. Complete hartal Banihal has been observing complete hartal for the past three days. Protesters on Tuesday staged a demonstration on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. Over 40 people, including shopkeepers, went on fast. They said the stir would continue till the arrested were released. Six children of Mr. Farooq, including four girls, and four children of Mr. Abdur Rashid were present. Local political leaders also joined the protest. 'How is it possible that a Lashkar militant was escorted to the venue with six grenades and one AK-47 rifle from Banihal to Ramban when police didn't allow people to carry a pen or a mobile phone? Journalists wrote an inventory of equipment — cameras, pens, mobiles — and submitted it to the police. Only after that they were allowed to carry these things. And where is that Lashkar militant who the police say was being escorted by Farooq's wife,' they asked. A local Congress activist said that both Mr. Farooq and Mr. Abdur Rashid were cardholders of the party. When contacted the Congress spokesperson Ravinder Sharma told The Hindu that he had come to know about the case only through the media.