Thousands march in Kashmir’s Achabal town to protest arrest of youth

By Aadil Mir

Srinagar : Violent protests broke out in Anantnag town on Monday night with an official building set on fire by protesters, while in nearby Achabal town thousands surrounded a police station late in the night to protest the arrest and beating up of four youth, including three teens.

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Protesters in Anantnag set on fire a state irrigation building, along the road of the Amarnath Yatra, to protest the deaths of people and the severe injuries inflicted in police firing – by bullets and the equally dangerous pellets.

Some 5,000 people were out on the streets of Achabal town, seven km away from Anantnag, late on Monday night to protest the arrest of four youth by paramilitary forces for alleged stone throwing.

Cries of “Azadi, azadi” rang out in Achabal, known for its Mughal Garden and its springs, as the crowd, with women leading the protesters, marched on the streets, and surrounded the police station.

The youngest of the four arrested is said to be 13-year-old. The three boys and the single adult are reported to have been beaten brutally by the security forces, who also refused to take them to hospital.

Mosque loudspeakers asking people to come out on the streets fuelled the public anger.

However, while the anger was palpable, there was no violence so far – from either side.

The protesters began gathering from 1.30 p.m. after the arrest of the minors. Till filing of the report at near midnight, villagers in groups of 50 and 100 were pouring into Achabal town to join the protests.

Some houses were providing rice to the protesters who were preparing for a night long vigil.

“The protesters have been told not to indulge in violence – and peace seems to be holding,” said a bystander.

Anantnag was the focus of the separatists’ march on Monday with their call of ‘Anantnag chalo’. People had gathered in the town in large numbers following the call by the separatists.

Around 2,000 people were injured in Achabal town alone due to pellet guns, with some having life threatening wounds, since July 9 – when the Valley erupted in protest following the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani.

Four people were killed in Achabal in the protests that followed Wani’s killing.

Monday was the 17th straight day of curfew in Anantnag and Achabal, without any relaxation.