Tension defused as Govt accepts demand of protesters

Gopal Sharma

People staging protest and blocking Jammu-Poonch road at Sunderbani on Wednesday.

JAMMU, July 31: People held strong protest demonstrations along with body of Ravi Kant, killed in stoning incident in Srinagar, at Sunderbani town today while Rajouri, Nowshera, Kalakote and Poonch towns observed complete bandh in protest against the pilgrim’s death.
The traffic remained off the road in these towns while the busy Jammu-Poonch road remained closed up to 11.45 am today.  The traffic was restored and tension defused only after the Minister for Planning and Labour Ajay Sadhotra, Minister incharge Health Shabir Khan, MLA  Nowshera R S Sharma, MLC Ravinder Sharma, IGP Jammu Rajesh Kumar, DC Rajouri F C Bhagat and other officers held talks with the prominent persons of the area leading protest and accepted the main demands of the agitators.
They handed over the cheque worth Rs 5 lakh to the wife of the deceased, offered job to one member of the family and 10 marla residential plot at Sunderbani.
The schools, colleges and even the banks remained closed and the attendance in many offices remained thin in all the major towns of  these two districts. It was all community bandh and the shops and business establishments remained closed throughout the day in protest against the death of Shri Amarnath pilgrim in stone pelting incident at Awantipura in Srinagar on July 21.
The body of the  deceased Ravi Kant Sharma, son of Durga Dass, resident of Ward No. 2, Sunderbani, reached his home town via Mughal road from SKIMS, Soura in Srinagar at around 12 midnight. A large number of people had already gathered at the main chowk on highway and sitting on dharna. They kept the dead body of the deceased on the road and continued their protest. The road blockade was going on at the site since 2 pm on Tuesday.
The irate youth burnt old tyres on the road throughout the night and even during the day and raised barricades to disrupt vehicular traffic. Earlier, local people of  Rajouri assembled at Salani bridge and paid floral tributes to the victim at around 10.15 pm last night when the police vehicle carrying body reached there. The people had been waiting there on the road side.
IGP Jammu, Rajesh Kumar told the Excelsior that situation in the major towns of  Rajouri and Poonch was under control. There was no violence at all but the tension aroused after death of pilgrim was defused after the  Government sanctioned Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia relief  and offered a job to one member of the family.
He said the traffic was restored on the highway after the agreement was reached with the members leading the protest and vehicles started plying normally on the road. However, bandh continued in many areas. He said that Police Department paid Rs 25,000 for treatment at Srinagar after stoning incident and today again paid Rs 25,000.
In Rajouri town, the people staged protest demonstrations at Salani bridge, Muradpur, Jawahar Nagar, Bathuni and Dangri today. They shouted slogans and burnt the effigies of  the Government demanding registration of  murder case against the people responsible for killing of innocent pilgrim from Sunderbani.
There was no movement of traffic on the road in the district headquarters. In Nowshera and Kalakote also there was complete bandh. The public held protests and also blocked road. The protesting youth had a minor tiff with the local SHO at Nowshera and  the  situation became tense but it was defused with the intervention of  Tehsildar. Protests were also held at Taryath, Solki and Mogla in Kalakote.
Poonch city also observed a complete and all community bandh. People from all walks assembled at Pritam Park and staged massive protest demonstration for about two hours from 10 am onwards. Several local leaders addressed the gathering and condemned the incident.  Bandh call in the city had been given by the VHP and Bajrang Dal and all the communities supported it. Entire market, schools, colleges and banks remained closed during the day.  The vehicles also remained off the road.
Yesterday, the protesters had refused ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh announced by the Chief Minister in favour of family members of the deceased pilgrim. The State cabinet which met today at Srinagar under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah sanctioned Rs 5 lakh as extra ordinary ex-gratia in favour of  the next kin of Ravi Kant. The Government also offered job for one family member and a 10 marla residential plot. MLA Nowshera also paid Rs 25,000 to the family of the deceased.
The body of the deceased was lifted from the road and then taken to his home. The funeral procession started from his house and thousands of people and senior officers joined the last rites ceremony at the local cremation ground.
It may be recalled that during violence in Kashmir on July 21 over Gool killings, Ravi Kant who was going to Shri Amarnath yatra in a bus was hit by a stone on his head. He was shifted to  Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of  Medical Sciences Soura and was under treatment for the last ten days. He went into coma and finally died yesterday in the ICU. His friend Varinder Singh who was accompanying also alleged that patient remained neglected for the first two three days in the hospital and Administration did not take much pains  for his specialized treatment.


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