Curfew again imposed in Rajouri; cops, women among several injured

Curfew again imposed in Rajouri; cops, women among several injured

15 March 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Curfew was re-imposed in Rajouri town and outskirts this afternoon after a procession being taken out by the minorities to protest delay in arrest of miscreants involved in attack on religious Bhairav procession on March 6 and 7 was canecharged and teargassed by the police personnel, who tried to stop it from marching towards Rajouri Police Post. Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Pawan Kotwal and Inspector General of Police (IGP), Jammu, Dilbagh Singh flew to Rajouri town this afternoon for a fresh assessment of the situation as over two dozen persons including police personnel were injured, one of them seriously, in the clashes. One of the injured constable identified as Chaman Lal has been airlifted here from Rajouri in view of his serious condition, official sources said. Police said Shafkat Wani, a resident of Ward No. 8, Rajouri, one of the prime accused in attack on the religious procession, was arrested this afternoon. A case had already been registered against him. The minorities were demanding arrest of all 17 accused from majority community, who had instigated the mob and attacked Bhairav processions on March 6 and 7 during Holi festival in Rajouri town, leading to imposition of curfew. Trouble erupted when a peaceful procession being taken out by the minorities under the aegis of Sanatan Dharam Sabha comprising a number of women was stopped by the police personnel from marching towards Rajouri Police Post. The people said they should be allowed to protest peacefully demanding arrest of the miscreants from majority community, who were involved in attacking religious Bhairav procession twice on March 6 and 7. However, the police personnel started lathicharge on the procession to disperse them for defying Section 144, which was in force in the town after curfew was completely lifted yesterday. The mob turned violent and subjected cops to heavy stone pelting for unprovoked lathicharge on the procession. Exchange of stoning and teargas continued for about half an hour. Police fired several teargas shells to disperse the crowd including the women. A number of women sustained minor injuries in lathicharge and teargassing. Sources said nearly a dozen women sustained injuries but they didn’t require hospitalization. Initially, the women were leading the procession but it was taken over by the male members of minorities when police personnel started lathicharge and teargassing. A number of vehicles were damaged in stoning and lathicharge. Angry over police lathicharge and teargassing on police personnel, the mob also resorted to heavy stone pelting on the cops causing injuries to seven of them. Injured cops were admitted in District Hospital, Rajouri from where one of them, Chaman Lal, a resident of Udhampur, was airlifted to Jammu in the evening in view of head injury. His condition was stated to be serious while other injured were responding to the treatment. Two more injured cops were shifted to GMC Jammu by road. Local people alleged that cops went berserk, entered into the houses of minorities, beat-up men, women and children and damaged houses and vehicles after the stoning. Deputy Commissioner, GA Khwaja announced imposition of curfew in entire Rajouri town and outskirts to prevent any further outbreak of violence. Police and para-military personnel were deployed in strength in entire town and outskirts to keep the people indoors. Mike fitted vehicles moved out in Rajouri town announcing imposition of curfew at about 2 pm and asking people to stay indoors. Curfew was strictly implemented till situation returned to normal, Mr Khwaja said, adding that curfew was relaxed in eastern part of Rajouri town from 6 pm to 8 pm where normalcy prevailed. In rest of the town, no relaxation was given. Police said Shafkat Wani, one of the main accused in the attack on Bhairav processions, has been arrested. The minorities were insisting on arrest of all 17 accused, who have been identified for attacking annual Bhairav procession twice in the town on March 6 and 7 during Holi festival. The minorities have refused to open their shops even during curfew relaxation demanding immediate arrest of the accused. They have announced that their shops will remain closed till all accused were arrested and put behind the bars with registration of cases against them. They were also demanding action against civil and police administration of Rajouri for shielding majority community and not arresting their accused. Sources said after two hours relaxation in eastern part of Rajouri, curfew was re-imposed in the town. A decision on further curfew relaxation will be taken tomorrow morning by civil and police administration depending on the situation. Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Pawan Kotwal and IGP Jammu, Dilbagh Singh flew-in to Rajouri this afternoon after getting a report of flare-up in the violence. They were camping in Rajouri monitoring the situation and were expected to stay there for the night to help local, civil and police administration to meet both communities, address their demands and defuse the tension so that curfew was lifted and normalcy restored. The media persons have condemned police attack on cameraman Amit Kumar, who was seriously injured while covering the procession and subsequent lathicharge, teargassing and stoning. Amit was hospitalized but discharged in the evening. Curfew was imposed in Rajouri town on March 7 after attack on Bhairav procession. Day curfew was lifted on March 13 while night curfew was also lifted yesterday. Only Section 144 was in force in the town. Meanwhile, a case FIR No. 123-2012 under Sections 307, 353, 336, 332, 147 and 188 RPC has been registered at Police Station Rajouri in connection with today's violence in Rajouri town, an official handout said. Local people said that police personnel went berserk after lathicharge and teargassing on the processionists and beat-up the people including women. They said police also entered into houses of the people and beat-up there. Some vehicles of the people were also ransacked. Some vehicles parked on road side and other complexes were also damaged by some of the cops. Police, however, denied the charge the cops damaged the vehicles. Sanatan Dharam Sabha president Dinesh Sharma and other senior leaders of the minorities have strongly denounced lathicharge and teargassing on peaceful procession of the minorities and excesses by the cops, who entered into people’s houses and beat-up the inmates. They have demanded stern action against the police personnel involved in attack on the minorities. They urged the Government and senior officers of police administration to take action against the cops involved in today’s attack and ensure immediate arrest of the culprits wanted for attack on Bhairav processions as a prelude to opening of shops by the minorities in Rajouri and return of normalcy. Meanwhile, Kuldeep Raj Gupta, Vibodh Gupta and Yogesh Sharma, all BJP leaders, Rajinder Gupta, former chairman, Municipal Committee, Rajouri, Vijay Gupta, president, Beopar Mandal, Rajouri, Hardev Raj, Incharge RSS Rajouri-Poonch, Bharat Bushan Vaid, Kamal Gupta and Sushil Vaid have strongly condemned unprovoked police lathicharge and teargassing on the procession followed by beating-up of the people in houses. They have sought intervention of Governor NN Vohra saying the 'dictatorial attitude’’ of local administration was also responsible for vitiating peaceful atmosphere in Rajouri town by delaying arrests of the accused involved in attack on religious processions. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jammu has also viewed with grave concern the deteriorating law and order situation in Rajouri. 'It is very unfortunate that law enforcing authorities have not been able to defuse the situation even after the lapse of more than eight days forcing minorities to keep their business establishments closed for such a long time’’, a Chamber release said. It appealed to the administration to identify the miscreants whosoever they are and book them under the law. It also urged the both communities to join hands and build a healthy atmosphere of peace and harmony in Rajouri so that normalcy was restored in the town. Social worker Netar Singh has strongly condemned police lathicharge on peaceful protesters.