Monday, November 29, 1999

Juvenile protesters among 100 held in police clampdown in Kashmir

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Srinagar, June 17 -- Relatives of Irfan Ahmad Khosa, a Class 9th student, have been making rounds of the Rainawari Police Station since Tuesday morning. Despite pleas by parents, Irfan (15) - who is among the 100 youth rounded up by the police for pelting stones in reaction to the killing of a boy last week in the police action - continues to be behind the bars for the third day today. A major police clampdown is underway against protesters in Srinagar, aimed at curbing street demonstrations, which hit Srinagar last Friday and continued for four consecutive days. The demonstrations left scores of protesters and policemen injured. Irfan was sleeping when a police party, headed by SHO Bashir Ahmad, raided his house searching for his elder brother Omar Ahmad Khosa. The police had reports that Irfan's elder brother indulged in stone throwing after the protests broke out last week against the killing of a Saida Kadal boy, Tufail Ahmad (17), allegedly by the police firearms. "It was 12 am of Monday-Tuesday intervening night. Some of the family members were watching television and I was reciting Quran when the police party came in banging doors and windows. We rushed to open the doors," recalled Bilal Ahmad, Irfan. Ahmad said since Omar was not at home, the police party picked up his younger brother and charge-sheeted him with rioting and stone pelting. "He (Irfan) is a school-goer. He has never indulged in stone pelting," said Irfan's uncle, who fails to understand the charge-sheet list handed over to him by the police. "We have approached the court and will apply for a bail," said Irfan's uncle. On Thursday, Irfan's school-principal met the SHO pleading "not to spoil his career". "He (Irfan) has exams. Any major charge against him will mar his career," the principal pleaded before the police officer. Unknown number of youth continues to be behind the bars at the Rainawari Police Station, which is evident from the rush outside the police station. The police are not ready to share data on arrests or charges slapped against the protesters. "I have no information on how many held and under what charges. You can get the details from Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) office," SHO Bashir told the Hindustan Times on phone. The scene outside the Rainawari police station is no different from five other major police stations in and around downtown Srinagar, spread over 5 square kilo metre area. "We have made temporary arrests of 100 people, who were involved in stone pelting. They have been detained for committing substantial offences," said SSP, Srinagar, Javed Riyaz Bedar. Since no data on charges are revealed by the authorities, the parents, whose son is held at the Maisuma Police Station, allege their son has been charged under Section 307 of the RPC, which is attempt to murder. Dozens of protesters have been held for attempt to murder and under Section 147-148, which rioting and unlawful assemblage across the city. The police have prepared a list of protesters from downtown areas and were being picked up in nocturnal raids across the city since Monday this week. "More arrests would take place in the coming days," said SSP Bedar.The state's largest opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, has criticized the authorities for the police crackdown. "It indicated a total bankruptcy of ideas the government is suffering from. We demanded immediate release of those kept inside police stations without any evidence against them," said the PDP spokesman in a press statement.

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