After Police, Army Hunts Youth Ahead Of Polls

4 May 2014
Rising Kashmir
Sheikh Saleem

Bandipora: Ahead of elections for the Baramulla constituency on Wednesday, Army has detained dozens of youth in this north Kashmir township during nocturnal raids. The Army action has forced many youth to go into hiding. Sources said as police failed to arrest youth, suspected of disrupting polling process, in the town despite several raids, Army was called in for the purpose ahead of elections. When a large army contingent cordoned off dense Hajam Mohalla, locals thought the forces were in search of militants. But they saw young boys being dragged out of houses and their mothers shouting for help, they said. After protests erupted in the town following killing of a youth in Srinagar, army was called in the town to quell the protests. Eyewitnesses said army men went berserk, smashing windows and doors of several houses. 'They also beat every pedestrian whosoever came in their way including a doctor of SDH Bandipora. They also lobbed pepper shells in the premises of houses.' Army raided many houses in Hajam Mohallah, Plan, Ajar and Nowpora and arrested dozens of youths. Locals said personnel of 14 Rashtriya Riffles appeared at Gulshan Chowk in civvies in a Scorpio and picked up three youth. Fearing arrests, many youth in the town have gone underground. Some parents told Rising Kashmir that they have sent their wards to safer places. 'Army and police are hunting innocent youth so it's better to send them to some safer places till elections are over,' said Ali Mohammad. Many youth have moved to Srinagar and other places to stay with their relatives and friends. The recent arrests made in South Kashmir and Srinagar ahead of polls have also made them apprehensive of arrests. This is the second instance when Army is assisting police to detain youths who have been reportedly involved in stone pelting. Last year, Army had hinted at coming back to streets to curb agitation. The then General Officer Commanding 15 Corps, Lt General Om Prakash had said Army may assist civil government to curb agitation in the valley. 'There is Joint Counter agitation strategy which is in place. We will assist Police wherever required,' he had said. On Thursday, in Nowpora area of the town, troopers of 14 Rastriya Riffle in civvies barged into residential houses and tried to arrest some youth. However, locals foiled the attempt to arrest them. Army retreated but not before smashing the window panes of the houses. Residents chased the army up to their camp and staged a sit in outside the camp. Official sources said after complaints by locals, Deputy Commissioner Bandipora summoned the officer of 14RR. However, he denied the charges. Personnel of 14 RR visited the market on Sunday and summoned shopkeepers warning them of dire consequences if protests erupted in town. Meanwhile, Army spokesman Lt Col NN Joshi denied that army was involved in the raids and arrests.