Thursday, August 9, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Protest turns violent in Rajouri
Curfew in Jammu and Udhampur
M. L. Kak
Tribune News Service

Jammu, August 8
Indefinite curfew restrictions were imposed on two major towns of Jammu and Udhampur today to prevent demonstrators, protesting against the indiscriminate firing by militants at the local railway station here last night, in which 10 persons and one militant were killed and 30 others wounded.

Later in the evening the curfew was relaxed for three hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The state government authorities said the decision to impose the curfew restrictions was taken late last night when activists of the Shiv Sena and the Bajrang Dal turned unruly outside Jammu Medical College where the wounded had been admitted. The activists of these organisations had planned to give a call for a Jammu bandh and take out processions. In Udhampur, curfew was clamped on the town when protesters, enraged over the Doda massacre and over the killings at the railway station, blocked the national highway.

While complete bandh was observed in Kathua and Samba areas, the police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to quell violence which was triggered off during a procession taken out by a section of people in Rajouri town. The processionists stoned some government buildings, including the district courts. The police resorted to lathi charge and teargas shelling. When the protesters regrouped the police fired several shots in the air. At least 10 protesters were injured in the lathi charge and teargassing. Three policemen, too, were hurt in stone-pelting.

Later, all shops were closed. Passenger transport services remained paralysed in Rajouri, Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur districts. Even the inter-district transport services remained off the road.

The Jammu city wore a deserted look with the business centres shut and offices closed. Some private cars and scooters were allowed to ply. The police and para-military forces had been deployed at focal points.

A report said curfew restrictions in Jammu city were warranted to disallow the Congress from holding a demonstration and taking out a procession.

The Governor, Mr G.C. Saxena, the Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, reviewed the latest security scenario in the Jammu region with senior police and civil officers at Raj Bhavan here today.

The Chief Minister, accompanied by the Minister of State for Home, Mr Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, and the Director-General of Police, Mr A.K. Suri, visited the railway station.

The high-level team was shown several bullet marks on the tea stalls and on walls of the railway office.

Latest reports said that two to three militants, equipped with sophisticated weapons, had alighted from the Ahmedabad-Jammu Express and within seconds they resorted to indiscrimate firing from the overhead bridge. The railway platform was jampacked at that time because the Shalimar Express was to leave within 20 minutes.

It was one Army personnel who retaliated, killing one militant on the spot. The police said the two others managed to escape. According to the police, the militants may have boarded the train somewhere in Pathankot and the plan to strike had been already formulated because the moment they alighted from the train they opened fire. Over 100 rounds were fired.

In the firing, eight persons, including two women and two sadhus, died on the spot and two succumbed to the injuries in hospital.

A Railway sweeper, when contacted by TNS, said, “Within minutes people were seen falling. I ducked under a rehri. Had the soldier, who was to leave by the Shalimar Express, not opened fire at least 50 to 60 passengers would have been killed”.

A senior Railway official said “the attack was so swift and sudden that we were all stunned. Everybody was seen running for shelter. Even the police could not train its guns because that could have resulted in the killing of civilians”.

In Poonch, a peaceful procession was taken out in which the protesters shouted anti-Pakistan slogans. At a number of places, including Jammu, Pakistani flags and effigies of Gen Pervez Musharraf were set ablaze.

Senior Congress leaders, including Mr Mangat Ram Sharma and Mr Raman Bhalla, have demanded immediate resignation of the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani. They blamed both the National Conference government and the BJP-led NDA government for their failure to contain the activities of the militants.

The president of the state Gurdwara Prabandhak Board, Mr S.S. Wazir, accused the BJP Government of laxity in handling the Kashmir affairs properly. He demanded immediate steps for arresting the level of violence. A senior Akali Dal leader, Mr Jagdev Singh, wanted the Union Home Minister to accept moral responsibility for the recent incidents of violence in the Jammu region and submit his resignation.

The chief of the Jammu Mukti Morcha, Prof Virender Gupta, said unless India launched an armed attack and destroyed the terrorist camps across the border, peace would not be restored in Jammu and Kashmir. He said even if the attack meant another war, Delhi should not feel shy in fighting it.

Professor Gupta flayed the Prime Minister for opting for a dialogue with Pakistan when Islamabad had violated the basic spirit of the past agreements.

Toll rises to 11

With one more injured succumbing to injuries this morning, the death toll in the militant killing at the railway station here last night has risen to 11, official sources said.

Following improvement in the situation a three-hour curfew relaxation was given in Jammu from 6 pm to 9 pm. The period passed off peacefully.

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