Employees from valley demand safe-passage for family

Pallavi Sareen

Jammu, Feb 18:Curfew continues on the fourth consecutive day in Jammu city and the scuffle between locals living in Janipur Colony in Jammu city and Kashmiri Employees living in Government quarters on Saturday has led to the spread of fear psychosis in all Kashmiri Secretariat and Non-secretariat employees.

With the stone-pelting on either side and the reluctant attitude of administration to bring the situation under control, damage has been done to the employee quarters in Janipur. The police arrested 17 people including one woman on account of creating a riot-like situation during curfew. But no curfew-like attitude was maintained as cars and bikes were allowed on the roads and people were allowed to gather in a protest despite curfew being in place.

The local boys were playing cricket on the roads despite curfew being imposed and even with police personnel present in Janipur since morning after the protests, riots and arson attacks on Friday, situation remained out of control in Janipur for the entire day.

Moreover, curfew-passes were being issued in bulk by official who did not have the authority to do so. Blank curfew passes were issued signed and stamped by the office of Additional District Magistrate. The Additional DC himself though, did not sign or stamp a single pass and rested easy while avoiding his duty.

The locals allege that the stone-pelting began after anti-national slogans were chanted from inside the quarters as a peaceful procession of protestors was passing by. The Kashmiri employees allege that some of the protestors entered the quarters and started vandalising the property and they also beat up some people.

Tear gas shells were thrown and five people were arrested on Friday but that only acted as a temporary solution. The stone-pelting began again late last night, following which twelve more people were arrested including a female.

Ten of the arrested miscreants were let free in the morning as protestors gathered once again to demand that the others are also allowed to go free. The Kashmiri Employees living in quarters in other areas of Jammu gathered together to demand a safe passage for their families to return to Kashmir.

Sameer Aijaz, on behalf of President Darbar Move Employees Federation (Non-secretariat) said, “On Monday, our employees will not go to offices until our family is secure. We are taking care of security of our family ourselves and in such situation, we cannot resume work. We did not know that we will have to face so much. If the administration has failed to do anything up until now, then what will it do in the future?”

On being asked about the lapse in security, he said, “Boys came on bikes and attacked the Poonch quarters. Janipur area is a prime example of security failure. Day before yesterday, they came in the form of a mob from Police station, crossed Governor House and then threw stones near Poonch Quarters.”

He said that the secretariat employees had similar demands. They did not wish to discontinue their service but only wanted their families to be given a safe passage to return to Kashmir, given how the situation had gotten tense in Jammu city and in all over India for Kashmiris.

Divisional Commissioner Sanjeev Verma and Deputy Commissioner Ramesh Kumar also addressed the employees assuring their safety in Jammu. With the deployment of Army and curfew now being enforced in real sense, things have calmed down in Jammu city. But with the lapse in administration, indifference of police officers and a retaliation for the Pulwama Attack on all Kashmiris living in India, a fear psychosis has taken ground in the minds of the employees.

“We fear for the lives of our children. How can we go to work knowing that they are not safe back home?,” said Imtiyaz, a non-secretariat employee.

Among the huge crowd of employees, slogans of “Durbar Move Band karo” were also chanted but the majority of people condemned that.

“We are employees and Durbar move is the evidence of our secularism. We bleed for our fellow Hindu and Sikh brothers and are ready to lay down our lives for them. Why should we stop Durbar move? This is the intention of those who are creating this kind of atmosphere to stop us from coming here and working. What is our fault in all this? We were not there with the boy in the car. It was Friday and we were sitting in our offices. Why are we being targeted?” said a secreatriat employee.

Yassir Khan, a former student activist narrated the turn of events in other areas of Janipur saying that the ones who were vandalising local Muslim shops or throwing stones in Janipur were not locals of Jammu city. The protest against the killing of 49 army soldiers in Janipur included Hindu and Muslim alike.

“It was all quite disorganised so I gathered them all to sing the National Song. It was afterwards that I realised that the boys beating on the shutters of a butcher shop or the local restaurant here were not from Jammu. They said that they were from Lakkadmandi but I asked the others as well and they were not locals from Lakkadmandi. The entire riot was manufactured by political parties. I have been a student activist and I know the difference between an actual riot and one that is perpetuated.”

He also said, “When things got messy on Friday, even then there were local Muslims here who were returning to their homes after Namaaz and no one said or did anything to them. One of the families had the Islamic flag on their rooftops and many a times people mistake it for the Pakistani flag so I went there and asked them to take it down. You do not realise what could happen when such a situation emerges.”

Throughout Jammu city, Police officers failed to control the mob in areas such as Gujjar Nagar, Shaheedi Chowk and Talav Khateeka on Friday. Eye-witness allege that police officers were further helping the mob in creating more damage in some situations and in others, standing with their hands tied to their backs, letting the delinquents create a ruckus.

A source in the CID, on account of anonymity, revealed, “All police officers were present on the spot and tried to calm the situation down. There were tear gas shells thrown and then 17 people were also jailed. It was just a tussle between Janipur locals who were protesting and the employees living in quarters. But the police ensured that things did not get worse.”