Protests break out in parts of south Kashmir; separatists call for shutdown today
Violence erupted in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district following the death of 18-year-old local truck conductor Zahid Rasool Bhat at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi hospital. Bhat had been severely burnt in a mob attack in Udhampur district on October 9.
Bhat, a resident of Batengoo village in Anantnag district, was being treated for his burns in Delhi. He along with another trucker, Showket Ahmad Dar (35), was attacked by a mob in Udhampur, following protests triggered by rumours of cow slaughter in the area.
Bhat and Dar were flown to Delhi on October 11 with 60 per cent burns and had been responding well to the treatment, say sources. While Dar is still under treatment at the hospital, Bhat succumbed to his injuries this morning.
“I talked to the hospital authorities this morning and was told that both were faring well. However about 10:30 am, a message from the hospital came that Bhat’s condition was deteriorating and then in less than half an hour I was informed of his death,” a senior police officer from Anantnag district said.
As soon as the news of Bhat’s death spread, clashes erupted in Battengoo, Uranhall, Khannabal and many other parts of the south Kashmir district. Local youth and the police fought pitched battles in these areas restricting movement of vehicles on the national highway for some time. “We were able to push protesting youth into the villages and traffic was soon restored on the national highway,” the police officer said. The police used pepper grenades, tear smoke shells and aerial firing.
The body of Bhat was flown from Delhi in a state plane. In Srinagar, his mortal remains were received by Mehbooba Mufti and many J&K Ministers.
Meanwhile, Kashmiri separatist groups have called for a shutdown on Monday to protest Bhat’s death. The strike call has been supported by traders and transporters.
The Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), an amalgam of traders’ bodies, asked the PDP to sever ties with the BJP. “The PDP should make it known to people which party is behind the killing. It is high time the PDP respected the sentiments of people and broke ties with the BJP,” said KEA chief spokesman Siraj Ahmad.
Former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah described the attack on the truck as a “shocking reminder of intolerance and frenzy perpetrated by elements inimical to peace and tranquillity”.