Hundreds arrested, scores injured as police uses force

Hundreds arrested, scores injured as police uses force

9 May 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Jehangir Rashid

Srinagar: Police today foiled an attempt by thousands of State Government employees to gherao Srinagar's Civil Secretariat by charging batons and water cannons on them and arresting hundreds including their top leadership. Despite restriction across Kashmir valley to stop Government employees from reaching Srinagar, thousands of employees assembled in the localities near the Civil Secretariat in the morning. As they marched towards the Civil Secretariat to gherao it around noon, strong contingents of police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed around the Secretariat stopped their forward movement. Police lobbed water cannons, charged batons and arrested hundreds of employees including women during protests that turned violent. Dozens of the protesting employees including some of the leaders of JCC suffered injuries during the clashes that broke out. Hundreds of employees were drenched in violet colour water during the protests. The JCC had given the two day protest programme in support of their demands that include regularization of daily wagers, contractual and adhoc employees engaged before 1994. They were also demanding enhancement of retirement age from 58 to 60 years and removal of pay anomalies in different cadres. After today violent protests and use of force by the state government, the JCC has gone on war path and called for three day protest programme from May 24. 'On May 24 there would be strike in all the government offices while as on May 25, the employees would gherao the Civil Secretariat here. On May 26 they would march towards the Raj Bhawan and seek the Governor's intervention with respect to their demands. Thousands of State Government employees, including a couple of thousands from Jammu province, started arriving in Srinagar since last night to take part in the protests. In the morning majority of the protesting employees assembled near the Khalsa School, Magharmal Bagh and raised slogans in favour of their demands. These protesters were led by JCC member and President of his faction of Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC) Abdul Qayoom Wani. As this group of the employees started their march towards the Civil Secretariat a police lobbed water cannons at them in a bid to thwart the march. However, the employees went ahead and carried forward their march. As they reached near the Exhibition Crossing a posse of police personnel swooped on them and arrested most of their leaders. EJAC president Qayoom suffered minor injuries before he was arrested. Some of the employees managed to give police a slip and reached near the Civil Secretariat. The employees raised their protest near the Civil Secretariat and alleged that Government was backtracking from its commitment. The appearance of the employees near the Civil Secretariat baffled the police personnel and they immediately swung into action. The police personnel swooped on this group of protesters and bundled them in different police vehicles. Senior JCC member and women employee leader, Syeda Ladakhi, appeared near the Police Control Room and marched towards the Civil Secretariat. One of the cops manhandled the JCC member and this led to exchange of blows between the two. Syeda Ladakhi pushed some eight police cops and she raised strong protest against her manhandling by police. The police personnel bundled Syeda Ladakhi in a vehicle and took her to the Kothi Bagh police station. Some of the other women employee leaders were also arrested by the police. Some of the photographers associated with the local and national newspapers were beaten up by the police while carrying out their professional obligations. JCC member and President of his faction of Employees Joint Action Committee, Khurshid Alam led a march of the employees from the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) department. Although, Alam was arrested by the police as soon as he came out of the CAPD some of his colleagues also managed to reach near the Civil Secretariat and raise slogans in support of their demands. Alam along with his supporters was whisked away in police vehicles and lodged at the Kothi Bagh police station. Another march of the protesting employees started from the Power Development Department (PDD) complex at Bemina. The protesters led by senior JCC member, Ram Kumar Sharma managed to reach near the Civil Secretariat. Sharma along with the other protesters offered a stiff resistance only to be dragged by the police and bundled in the police vehicles. This group of protesters was lodged at Ram Munshi Bagh police station. JCC member and renowned trade union leader, Mohammad Gafoor Dar also led a protest rally here and raised strong protest over the state government's failure in honouring the agreement struck with the employees in September last year. Despite the arrest of their leaders employees re-assembled at different places in the city centre and carried out protests in small groups. The protests that started at around 11 in the morning continued in the afternoon. The action against the protesting employees led to disruption in the traffic movement. The shopkeepers pulled their shutters down in the area fearing losses during the police action. Talking to Excelsior, Khurshid Alam termed the Secretariat gherao programme as successful. He said despite restrictions and heightened security measures majority of the employees reached near the Civil Secretariat and raised their protest in support of their demands. 'The entire Srinagar city was turned into a garrison and many employees were stopped coming from different district headquarters were stopped by the police. We have been able to send our message to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his cabinet colleagues. The government should fulfill its commitment and implement the agreement signed with the Government employees,' said Alam. Alam said that Government should have fulfilled their demands by March 30 this year, adding that delay is denting the credibility of the Government when it comes to fulfilling the demands of the Government employees. 'As many as 658 employees were arrested by the police and these include 40 women employees. We are giving an ultimatum of 15 days to the Government and if they fail to fulfill our demands by May 24 then our agitation would be more forceful. The Government would be responsible for the consequences thereof,' said Alam. Ram Kumar Sharma said that the employees would not hold back unless the Government does not fulfill their demands. He said the JCC has framed the three day protest programme so as to remind the Government of its promises made to the employees in the form of agreement reached out on September 15, 2011. 'There would be strike on May 24 followed by Secretariat gherao on May 25. On May 26 the employees would march towards the Raj Bhawan in Srinagar and seek Governor, N. N Vohra's intervention in this matter. We are determined to take this agitation to the logical conclusion,' said Sharma. EJAC-Q leader and general secretary, ITI Employees Union, Mohammad Abbas while talking to Excelsior said that the Government has failed in its commitment of regularizing the services of daily wagers engaged before 1994. He said despite the written agreement no headway has been made in removing the pay anomalies. 'The Government was forcing its own employees to come on roads and raise protest. If the commitment would have been fulfilled by the Government there was no need to come on streets and lodge protests. The police action on the employees is totally uncalled for and condemnable as well,' said Abbas. He expressed his dismay over the non-participation of the Civil Secretariat employees in the two day protest programme saying that these employees don't have the courage to raise their voice when the employees were being beaten up by the police. He expressed optimism that the Government would fulfill the demands before the start of next phase of agitation. The State President of third front of JCC, Mohammad Gafoor Dar told Excelsior that police action against the employees would not serve any purpose. He said that Government should without any further delay implement the agreement reached out with the employees last year. The JCC leaders and employees arrested today include Khurshid Alam, Abdul Qayoom Wani, Ram Kumar Sharma, Mohammad Gafoor Dar, Muntazir Mohi-ud-din, Purshottam Sharma, Babu Hussain Malik, Balwan Singh, Kulwant Singh, Syeda Ladakhi, Nasreena, Arifa, Shabir Ahmad. Employees like Abdul Qayoom Wani, Rafiq Ahmad Khanyari, M. J Ahangar, Bashir Ahmad, Fayaz Ahmad, Farooq Ahmad, Ramakant, Manzoor Pampori, Abdul Bari Shah and Khurshid Ahmad suffered injuries during today's protest programme. While Qayoom was taken to the police hospital, the other injured employees were shifted to SMHS hospital for treatment.