Curfew imposed in Poonch, Army standby after arson

Curfew imposed in Poonch, Army standby after arson

13 September 2010
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU: An indefinite curfew was imposed in Poonch town tonight and Army was kept at standby to maintain law and order after an irate mob, protesting against reported desecration of holy Quran in the United States, went on a rampage setting ablaze and damaging Government property leading to firing, tear-smoking and lathicharge by para-military and police personnel in which 36 persons were injured, one of them seriously. Protests erupted in most parts of Jammu region including Doda, Ramban and Rajouri districts against the desecration of holy book with people taking out massive processions shouting slogans against sacrilegious in the United States as aired by an Iran channel 'Press TV’. A high alert has been sounded in entire Jammu region by police and civil administration following Intelligence inputs that protests could take place tomorrow as well. Para-military and police personnel have been put on an alert in entire Kishtwar district, which remained peaceful today, but this evening announcements were made from the religious places asking people to observe bandh tomorrow and hold demonstrations. A youth was hit on his cheek and injured by the youths at New Plots after he raised a provocative slogan while boarding off a matador on his return from the procession. Several processions were taken out in Jammu City and outskirts denouncing the incident. A senior Jammu Police officer said the situation was being monitored at regular intervals in entire Jammu region. 'All forces at our command have been put on a high alert. They have been asked to monitor situation and keep a strict surveillance’’, he added. Cross-LoC bus and trade on Poonch-Rawlakote route has been suspended this week. The bus was scheduled to ply today while trade takes place every week on Tuesday and Wednesday. Officials didn't give any reason for the suspension of bus and trade. SSP Poonch Manmohan Singh, who was among the police officials injured in protests, told the Excelsior that an indefinite curfew was clamped in Poonch town tonight after large scale protests in Poonch and Mandi during which mob torched and damaged Government property and continued to sit on dharna at Eidgah with a view to target Christ School and Christ Mohalla. Army has been alerted out as a precautionary measure in Poonch town, Mr Singh said, adding situation was brought under control late tonight after all people were vacated from Eidgah Chowk and sent back home. Mild force had to be used to disperse them. Trouble erupted in Mandi town of Poonch this morning when people of majority community started closing shops, banks and business establishments. They took out a massive procession shouting slogans against desecration of holy book in America. Religious slogans also rented the air frequently. People of almost entire Mandi town and adjoining villages joined the procession. Late in the afternoon, nearly 5000 people gathered at Pritam Park in the Main Bazaar and led by senior leaders of different organizations started a march in the town. Shouting anti-US and religious slogans, the people after reaching at Eidgah tried to move towards Christ School and Christ Mohalla. Para-military and police personnel had been deployed in strength to protect Christ School and Christ Mohalla in the heart of Poonch town. As the mob surged ahead, police parties led by the SSP Poonch blocked their route but the protesters were unrelenting and grappled with the cops to force their way towards the Christ School. Police fired several rounds in air and used rubber bullets after tear-smoking and lathicharge failed to have any impact on the mob. Clashes between protesters and police continued for more than an hour. As police and para-military blocked the mob from marching towards Christ School and Christ Mohalla, some of the people diverted towards Fire Brigade and Forest Department offices and started pelting stones on the parked vehicles. They set ablaze two Gypsies and a two wheeler parked in the Forest Department office and later the fire engulfed the office of Forest Department. The Fire tenders were extensively damaged and office of Fire Brigade was damaged by the protesters. The mob burnt Fire Department's record on the road. However, the buildings of Forest Department and Fire Brigade were saved from further damage by the fire fighting personnel. The adjoining Sports Stadium and a Government higher secondary school were also saved from mob fury by police and para-military personnel. Thirty six persons including 21 civilians and 15 police and para-military personnel were injured in the clashes that continued till late in the evening. One of the injured civilian was referred to Jammu this evening in view of his serious condition as he had sustained injuries on the head. SSP Poonch Manmohan Singh, DySP and SHO Poonch were among the injured. Sources said the offices of Forest Department and Fire Brigade suffered extensive damage in the fire and stone pelting by the mob. Their record was also burnt. Two parked vehicles of Forest Department were burnt while Fire Brigade vehicles were damaged extensively. After police firing and teargassing, majority of protesters retrieved while many others kept on sitting at Eidgah with a view to march towards Christ School and Christ Mohalla, sources said, adding para-military and police had been deployed in strength at both these places to protect them from the mob fury. Late tonight, the district administration decided to impose curfew in entire Poonch town and kept Army at standby to maintain law and order. Mike fitted vehicles moved out in Poonch town making announcement of curfew after which the protesters from Eidgah left for their houses. Some of them had to be forcibly dispersed by the cops. The seriously injured protester, who was referred to Government Medical College (GMC), Jammu for treatment, has been identified as Abdul Ahmed son of Ghulam Akram R-o Seri Khwaja. Eleven other injured have been admitted in District Hospital, Poonch for treatment while a police constable Jugal Raju, PSO of the SSP Poonch was also hospitalized. Rest of the injured had minor injuries. The SSP Poonch said presently curfew has been imposed within Municipal limits of Poonch but could be extended to other areas tomorrow morning depending on the situation. He added that Army has been kept at standby to maintain disturbed law and order and they have agreed to render their help. Situation was also tense in Mandi, Chandak, Kalai, Sathra, Shahpur, Khanetar, Bhainch and other areas of Poonch while Mendhar and Surankote were peaceful. However, para-military and police have been put on alert in Mendhar and Surankote also. Most of the protesting groups have given a call for bandh in Poonch tomorrow to protest the sacrilegious act. Injured admitted in District Hospital, Poonch have been identified as Javed Ahmed, Mohammad Aslam, Ghulam Ahmed, Abdul Rafiq, Mohammad Bashir, Mohammad Usmaan, Abdul Khalik, Rashid Ahmed, Mohammad Rashid and Asif. Condition of all of them was out of danger. Shops and all other business establishments besides educational institutions, banks and Government offices remained closed in Poonch town and other areas. In Jammu, people took out processions in Talab Khatikan, Karballa, Gujjar Nagar and Bhatindi denouncing the sacrilegious act. People were shouting slogans against America for desecration of holy book. At some other place also, the processions were taken out to condemn the act. A youth Asif Khan son of Jehangir Khan R-o Chinore was hit on his left cheek with a knife by some persons after he allegedly raised a provocative slogan while boarding off a matador at New Plot. He has been admitted to GMC Jammu. Police said a hunt was on to nab the accused. Tension gripped New Plots area as people started gathering in the Mosque after the incident. However, senior police officers including SSP Jammu Basant Rath were camping at the spot along with a strong pose of police and para-military personnel to maintain law and order. Police said the condition of Asif Khan was stable. A case has been registered in this connection. Police said a strict vigil is being maintained on the situation, which was well under control. Action in the case will be taken under the law, they added. Situation in Jammu was completely peaceful, sources said, adding all processions dispersed peacefully. In Rajouri, people took out a huge procession from Zabba Khanna Ziarat and marched in various parts of town shouting slogans against America and desecration of holy book and demanding stern action against the culprits. After more than three hour long procession, the people dispersed peacefully at Talab Masjid. At several other places in Rajouri district, people held small protest demonstrations to denounce the sacrilegious act. Protests also erupted in Doda and Ramban districts this afternoon. DIG Doda-Ramban range Manish Kumar Sinha said spontaneous protest demonstrations were taken out by the people at Jagti in Assar, Doda, Bhaderwah, Bhalla, Kastigarh, Batota, Chanderkoot, Ramban and Banihal. A large number of people marched in the processions in these areas of Doda and Ramban districts shouting religious slogans and protesting desecration act in the United States. They were demanding stern action against the culprits. Police and para-military personnel accompanied the processions which dispersed peacefully after two to four hours. Calls for protests against the alleged desecration of holy Quran were made from religious places to which the people spontaneously responded. At most of the places in Doda, Bhaderwah, Ramban, Banihal, Chanderkoot and Batote, shops also remained closed. A call for a bandh and protests for tomorrow against the sacrilegious act in Kishtwar district was given by the religious leaders this evening. Security has been beefed up in entire Doda belt including Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts in anticipation of more protests tomorrow. At some other places of Jammu region, protests were taken out against desecration of the holy book. .


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