Highway Turns Murderous; Valley Bound Truck Set on Fire

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2 persons battling for life, chaos in Assembly

SRINAGAR:  In a clear cut intention to kill, a gang of arsonists set ablaze a Srinagar bound truck with three persons on board near Udhampur on Friday night. While the driver escaped unhurt two others are battling for their lives in a Jammu hospital.

The two injured persons have been identified as Zahid Ahmed, 19, and Showkat Ahmed, 35, both residents of Bijbehara. The truck driver, Rameez Ahmed Bhat, escaped unhurt. Sources said the truck was carrying coal. 

Udhampur Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said bottles containing some combustible material were hurled at the truck at 1:45 am. The incident was recorded by a CCTV camera installed in the area. 

Jammu Divisional Commissioner Pawan Kotwal said the injured had sustained 40 to 70 per cent burns. They are being taken to Delhi for specialised treatment, he said. 

The three truckers belonged to the Bijbehara in South Kashmir, which erupted today afternoon after the news of the attack reached there.

The protestors blocked Srinagar-Jammu highway in Botengo village near Bijbehara to protest against the attack.

Zahid Ahmad is natives of Botengo and Showkat Ahmad hails from Uranhall village.

While one of the alleged attackers was immediately nabbed by a police team patrolling the area, four others were arrested later. They have been identified as Harish, Bal Bahadur, Sandoor Singh and Suneet Singh, all residents of Udhampur district. The police are looking for five others who are absconding, said Choudhary. The arrested persons have been booked under various provisions of the Ranbir Penal Code on charges of attempt to murder, rioting, conspiracy and Explosive Substances Act. 

Protests and a shutdown have roiled Udhampur and adjacent areas for last two days after carcasses of three cows were found in the on Thursday. Protesters also blocked Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.

As per a medical report, officials say, the cows have died due to consumption of poisonous substance but locals and several groups protesting against the death of cows allege that they were killed by humans.

The government today said in the Assembly that two persons involved in the attack have been arrested. It assured the House that stern action under law would be taken against the culprits involved in the incident. 

The attack has been widely condemned by politicians cutting across party lines.

Chairman Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Geelani termed this action as “terrorism” of the communal forces of India.

Geelani said that Jammu & Kashmir is directly ruled by the fanatic and ill-minded people who openly express their hatred against Muslims.

“The communal forces want to repeat the economic blockade or ‘Economic Terrorism’ of 2008 and they are preparing ground for that purpose,” Geelani said over phone from New Delhi.

The Hurriyat leader said that RSS-PDP coalition government in Jammu & Kashmir is now reckoned as the worst and most dangerous period in the history of the troubled state for which Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his party is directly responsible.

“Mufti Sayeed is the person who gave direct access to these fascist and communal elements in the state which encouraged them to show their enmity with the Muslim community.”

Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq while condemning the attack said that the communal forces in Jammu provoke Kashmiri as they want to polarize the state on the basis of  religion.

Talking to reporters, Mirwaiz said that such incidents are very grave and they could take a ugly turn if such communal people who attacked the three Kashmiri drivers were not reigned in.

Senior Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah said communal elements want to economically choke Kashmiris and Kashmir has option of ‘Rawalpindi Way’ for trade connection with Pakistan and Muzzafarabad.

Shah said the world community should take notice of the situation and facilitate the trade connection between Kashmir and Pakistan and Muzzaferabad. “The world community must also facilitate the opening of Jhelum Valley Road,” Shah said.

Mainstream politicians equally condemned the Udhampur attack.

Senior PDP leader and Member Parliament, Tariq Hameed Karra, has strongly condemned the petrol bomb attack on a Kashmiri truck on Srinagar-Jammu highway near Udhampur.

In a statement, Karra asked the Government to take stern action against the radical Hindutva elements, who he said, seem to be hell bent upon vitiating the atmosphere in the State for vested political interests. “BJP and its allies in Sangh Parivar should understand that choosing J&K as a turf for playing perilous games for electoral gains in Bihar would have disastrous consequences as J&K is a sensitive state and any fresh trouble in the area would have huge diplomatic implications,” he said.

JKPCC Chief G.A. Mir said that violence cannot be solution to any problem in J&K.

Mir expressed serious concern over Udhampur attack on the Kashmiri truck drivers.

“Such incidents are aimed to vitiate the atmosphere of peace. This is a very unfortunate incident, and should not have happened,” he said and appealed the people to remain calm and respect the tradition of brotherhood and communal harmony.

Ruckus in Assembly 

Srinagar:  Police have arrested three accused and have launched a hunt to nab other communal elements who set a Kashmir bound truck with three persons on board on fire in the Udhampur periphery of Jammu Division on Friday night.  

Giving details about the incident after the Opposition National Conference members especially MLA Abdul Majeed Larmi created ruckus in the House over the issue, the senior Minister Abdul Rehman Veeray said a Kashmir bound truck was intercepted by a gang of youth in Udhampur periphery and after spraying some combustible substance set it on fire. He said the police intervened almost immediately and rescued two people Showkat Ahmad Dar son of Ghulam Muhammad Dar and Zahid Ahmad son of Ghulam Rasool, both with burn injuries. The third Rameez Ahmad, who was driving the truck, however, had escaped unhurt.

The Minister said that the two injured were rushed to hospital in Udhampur and later driven to Jammu for specialized treatment. He said three accused identified as Bala Bahadur Singh, Sunder Singh and Sunil Singh were arrested and manhunt was launched to arrest others. State Police Chief has flown to the district and a murder case has already been registered vide FIR number 368/2015 under sections 307, 336, 437, 147, 148, 120B and 427 RPC. All the three victims are from Uranhal and Butengoo villages of the Islamabad district.

The Ministers statement did not satisfy the Opposition members. Engineer Rashid while seeking stringent punishment for the communal elements termed them as the biggest terrorists while Ali Mohammad Sagar of NC said the government lacks courage to admit that the accused are from BJP, its ally. He said the BJP is provoking Kashmir and vitiating the atmosphere by resorting to such communal tactics. Muhammad Akbar Lone, the former speaker termed the incident a shame.

National Conference members walked out from the House against the incident and the ‘improper’ response from the government.

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