Srinagar: Security agencies lifted restrictions on movement in Handwara and Kupwara towns on Kashmir as the Valley began to return to normality on Tuesday after government authorities relented to pulling down military bunkers.
The civic body brought down security bunkers in Handwara the epicenter of protests on Tuesday morning bringing an end to the impasse that began on Tuesday last week over claims that a woman was molested by some security personnel.
The Army post that had been standing in the Handwara town’s main market for more than a decade comprised three bunkers and Town Commander Office (TCO) that stationed 21 Army personnel from Rashtriya Rifles.
Locals had been demanding the removal of the Army post since the firing on protesters last Tuesday, in which three persons had been killed.
Restrictions were eased in Kupwara and Trehgam towns where the violence had eventually spread at noon.
The municipal authorities also stood a board at the place were the bunkers had originally been installed, marking the place for a public park.
Local residents had long demanded that the bunkers be pulled down, but the army refused.
Last Tuesday, locals said a schoolgirl had been molested by an army man when she went to the washroom in the market. The girl has denied the molestation, the police said, and claimed that a local had misbehaved with her. The girl’s mother had said she had panicked on seeing an army man inside the washroom.
According to the eyewitnesses, hundreds of people assembled near main Chowk Handwara when authorities used JCB to dismantle Army post. The locals were jubilant while majority of the onlookers believed that town will witness peace in absence of Army personnel. This Army post was nuisance more than an asset. The presence of Army in Kashmir is not welcomed and same is the case here. We are really happy and want to thank the government for conceding to our demand, said a group of locals watching the removal of Army post in the town.
They said that it is a moment of joy for the people. We are jubilant but cant celebrate in waking of the innocent killings, said a shopkeeper.
Pertinently, after Tuesdays shooting, the bunker was set on fire by angry youth and since then Army had abandoned them. Sources said that on Monday late night, a party from Baghatpora Army Camp arrived in Handwara Chowk and removed all the hoardings that Army had installed atop bunkers.
A police official said that on Monday the District authorities conveyed the decision of removing the bunkers to Army. The decision was taken by authorities as it was the long-pending demand of the people, he said.
The situation in nearby Kupwara Town also remained peaceful today and people resumed their routine business activities. Authorities relaxed curfew at 8 in the morning till 11 and then again extended the deal up to 6 pm. During this period, the situation was calm and no incident of protests occurred.
However, a protest was staged by people at Trehgam Town after which police summoned local civil society and traders to Trehgam Police Station. Sources said that after negotiations the locals decided to end their protest and restore normal life.
Deputy Commissioner Kupwara, Rajeev Ranjan, said the situation has normalized in the Kupwara district and announced that there would be no curfew from tomorrow.
We have lifted the curfew from entire district and normal activities would resume fromtomorrow. The educational institutes including colleges and schools shall remain open fromWednesday and there would be no restrictions in any part of the district, the DC added.
Police arrest eye-witness
During a nocturnal raid police arrested an eye-witness in connection with an alleged molestation case of a girl in Handwara, an incident that triggered a cycle of violence for past one week in North Kashmirs Kupwara district.
According to the Police sources, a shopkeeper namely Hilal Ahmed Bandey son of Muhammad Yousuf a resident of Banday Mohalla Handwara was arrested for questioning after the minor girl claimed that he was one of the two accused who confronted her outside washroom in Handwara.
The arrested youth is being questioned. Everything will be clear within a day or two, said a police official adding that another youth named by the girl is still out of reach.
Sources, however, told a local news agency the youth, Muhammad Iqbal, named by the arrested youth fell to the bullets on the eventful day of April 12.
Bandey was among the two persons named by the girl in her statement before Chief Judicial Magistrate. He is accused of manhandling the girl on 12 April while she was stepping out of a public restroom in Handwara town.
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