KISHTWAR: Curfew was imposed and army called out in Kishtwar town after violence between two communities during Eid prayers Friday left two persons dead and dozens others injured.
Officials said curfew was clamped immediately after the violence, and two columns of the army deployed in Kishtwar town to assist the civil administration to control the clashes from spreading.
However, reports said clashes continued till the evening despite Army patrolling on the streets.
Reports said that trouble erupted when one of the many small processions heading towards Chowgan grounds for Eid prayers came under attack from miscreants near Kuleed area. Eyewitnesses said people in procession, raising pro-independence slogans, were marching for prayers when members of the other community hurled abuses at them resulting in an altercation. Some people pelted stones at the procession resulting in clashes.
Even as prayers began amid high tension clashes continued with miscreants going on rampage ransacking commercial properties and setting shops and vehicles on fire.
Eyewitnesses said the district headquarters turned into a virtual battlefield with even government-controlled Village Defence Committee (VDC) members joining the violence.
Eyewitnesses said some VDC members fired at people came out of Eidgah from roof tops.
Police also opened fire and lobbed teargas canisters to control the situation, they said.
A senior police officer said there was heavy stone-pelting from both sides, after which the police fired on the mob, in which one person was killed and nearly two dozen injured.
He said the clashes spread like wild fire in other parts of the district, and were going on till late in the evening.
Rioters set many vehicles, including those of police and hundreds of structures on fire.
Several shops at Hospital Chowk and the office of the Chief Education Officer too were set on fire, sources said. Nearly a hundred buildings were gutted, the sources said, including a dozen residential structures belonging to both communities, and a couple of hotels.
A charred body of an unidentified person, was recovered from the main bazaar taking the death toll to two.
In the evening, a doctor reportedly fired from inside his house near Amar Market, injuring over a half dozen people. According to people who said they were on the scene, the gunfire came after a mob tried to set the house on fire.
Three seriously injured people were brought to Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu. The rest were being treated in Kishtwar, sources said. Several policemen were injured; among them was DSP (Headquarters) Farooq Ahmed Kesar.
MINISTER ESCAPES MOB FURY: Minister of state for home affairs, Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo, who hails from the town, was met with a hostile reception when he tried to step out of Dak Bungalow to offer Eid prayers.
Stones were pelted at his cavalcade forcing him to beat the hasty retreat, eyewitnesses said.
Eyewitnesses said ministers guards fired in air to escort him back to the safety of heavily guarded Dak Bungalow.
District administration later called in army and imposed curfew in the area to control the situation.
Residents alleged that VDC members were the main culprits who had planned attack and lead the groups of people to arson.
Senior Congress leader GM Saroori, who witnessed whole accident, accused district administration of delayed action. Police was informed about the activity of miscreants when they first began teasing people going for Eid prayers. But police showed no seriousness and didnt act. Had it acted on time things would not have gone out of control, Saroori told a local news gathering agency KNS.
Meanwhile prohibitory orders under Section 144 Cr PC have been imposed in the adjoining Bhaderwah town of Doda district.
Chief Secretary Iqbal Khanday, DGP Ashok Prasad, Jammu Divisional Commissioner Shantmanu, IGP Jammu zone Rajesh Kumar and DIG Doda-Ramban-Kishtwar range, Ashkoor Wani, have rushed to the town. Sources close to them told The Tribune that the situation was not very good.
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