Rumor Mill Fuels Tension in Budgam, Army Deployed

SRINAGAR: After dithering for days authorities finally swung into action Wednesday and imposed curfew in affected areas of Budgam district.

A senior police official said that curfew was imposed to bring the situation under control and prevent the clashes from spreading to nearby areas.

“Although no fresh clashes took place in the curfew bound areas today, tension fueled by rumors and mostly spread on social networking sites like facebook, remained palpable.

Earlier police fired in air and lobbed tear gas shells to quell protests in central Budgam town Tuesday. Protests were sparked by widespread allegations of police excesses by a particular section of society.

Protests spread after an elderly woman was critically injured in police action. A policeman hit 58 year old Fatima Begum on her head with the gun butt at Dadina village Tuesday morning sparking off protests in already tense district.

Ever since skirmishes began between two sections of the society over a trivial matter (brawl between two truck drivers) three days back the role of police has come under sharp criticism. Local residents and leaders have accused it of showing total indifference at some places and at acting against a particular community at other places.

Reports from Dadina, Pymus, Dontus,  Paris Abad and Garend Kalan said policemen broke into houses of a particular community, ransacked them and beat up the inmates.

In Dadina village police broke into houses abusing and beating up inmates without consideration of age and gender, alleged one Syed Muhammad Hussain.

There was tension in the area following a clash between two groups but when we called police for maintaining peace, they arrived and let loose a reign of terror on us, he alleged.

Fatima Begum was hit by gun butt on head and was battling for her life in Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Soura  Doctors have described her condition as ‘very critical’.

At least 10 other residents, both men and women, were treated at the District Hospital of Budgam.

Rumors of Fatima’s death heightened tension further and in Seipora village miscreants resorted to arson. 

A top district official said there seems to be a well orchestrated move by certain quarters to fuel the tension between two communities and that was evident from rumor mongering, greatly ignited by uncontrolled social media, like facebook. 

Meanwhile on Wednesday authorities requisitioned help of army to maintain law and order in the sensitive areas of the district.

 Several columns of army were deployed to help the administration restore law and order, officials said.

“We have deployed several columns on the request of civil administration in parts of Budgam district to assist police to restore law and order,” Army spokesman in Shariefabad headquarters of Kilo-Force, Colonel V K Sharma said. An Army column has about 50-60 personnel.

He said the situation has remained under control since the deployment of Army.

Announcements were made through public address systems asking people not to pay heed to rumours that were being spread by people with vested interests.

Meanwhile religious leaders from both sects are urging people to maintain calm and uphold mutual age old brotherhood.

An extra ordinary meeting was held at the residence of Agha Syed Hassan, a top Shia leader and executive member of Hurriyat Conference. Prominent leaders from both communities, including Mirwaiz of Central Kashmir Maulana Abdul Lateef, leader of Karwani Islami, Maulana Ghulam Rasool Haami, Maulana Abdul Ghani Bhat besides others were present.

The meeting formed a coordination committee by name Majli-se-Tahafuze Iman which later toured various affected areas urging people to “see through the designs of enemy who wanted to divide Kashmiris on sectarian grounds in order to wriggle out itself of Gool crisis”.

A statement by the committee later alleged that the state was actively involved in fanning the strife in Budgam. “If state govt could enforce calm following 2010 mass uprising by brute force why was it reluctant to act in Budgam to contain the strife this time,”  the statement read.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Shailender Kumar and DC Budgam lead  a team of officials who visited the violence-hit areas to ascertain the situation. 

DC Budgam Khursheed Ahmad Shah later said that the high-level team visited areas of Saipora, Solipora, Gandoosa, Paimus, Alipora and Khomani Chowk. 

Divisional commissioner Kashmir Shailender Kumar said that restrictions have been imposed to prevent clashes and said that situation was under control and no fresh clashes have taken place in the district.

“We are expecting the situation to return to normal in next couple of days,” he said. 

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