Kashmir valley is witnessing a near total shut down on Monday after a strike was called in to protest against the death of a truck conductor whose vehicle was attacked in Udhampur by a petrol bomb. 24-year-old Zahid Ahmed Bhat, a resident of Anantnag, succumbed to his burn injuries on Sunday at Safdurjung hospital in Delhi after battling for life for nine days. Zahid and his truck driver Showkat Ahmed suffered burn injuries after their Kashmir-bound truck was attacked by a mob on Jammu-Kashmir highway on October 9.
As per the latest reports, few clashes were reported in the valley between protestors and the security forces after curfew-like restrictions were imposed at eight police station areas. However, nobody is reported to be injured.
Apprehending tension ahead of Mr. Bhat’s funeral, the local authorities decided to put restrictions over the general public movement in Anantnag. Several separatist leaders were not allowed to leave their homes as well. Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and JKDFP leader Shabir Ahmad Shah were among several separatists placed under the house restriction after they had given a call for strike late on Sunday. Kashmir High Court Bar Association, traders’ bodies, transport union and a Kashmiri pandit organisation have extended support to shutdown call.
Similar strict restrictions have been imposed in six police station areas of MR Gunj, Nowhatta, Safa Kadal, Maisuma, Rainawari and Khanyar. Protests had broken out on Sunday after the news of the truck conductor’s death.
Expressing deep shock over the death, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed blamed the “politics of hate and intolerance” for the incident. CM Mufti Sayeed also added that such incidents are posing a “grave challenge to the state and country’s plurality.”
Assuring the aggrieved family, he asserted that strictest possible action will be taken against the culprits. Deputy CM and state BJP leader Nirmal Singh also condemned the incident and said the perpetrators should not be spared.
So far, nine persons have been arrested by the state police and five of them have been booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).
“Nine persons were arrested for criminal assault on the truck,” Deputy Commissioner, Udhampur, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary had told the press on Sunday.
The state police also claimed that murder charges will be slapped on the accused, which includes a Nepalese citizen and eight local persons from Jammu region.
Meanwhile, former J&K CM Omar Abdullah attacked BJP, which is ruling at the Centre and is an alliance partner of Mufti Sayeed-led state government, over the incident and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi as to who would be blamed for the death.
Spontaneous shutdown was observed leading to clashes between protesters and police on Sunday soon after the new of Mr. Zahid’s demise broke out. Police and Central security forces had to use teargas and resort to cane-charge to control the situation. According to the authorities, nobody was hurt during the protests on Sunday.
(With inputs from the PTI/Agencies)