22 arrested as pro-independence sit-in continues in Azad Kashmir

Updated September 09, 2019

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Police resort to tear gas shelling to disperse marchers; 12 policemen injured in stone pelting, claims DIG. — APP/File
Police resort to tear gas shelling to disperse marchers; 12 policemen injured in stone pelting, claims DIG. — APP/File

MUZAFFARABAD: At least 22 pro-independence activists were taken into custody by the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) police in Hajira subdivision of Poonch district overnight for alleged rioting while a sit-in continued in Tetrinote village on the second consecutive day on Sunday.

On Saturday, police had stopped thousands of participants of a “Freedom Long March” called by Sardar Mohammad Saghir-led faction of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in Dawarandi village of the Hajira area, when they were insisting to move ahead towards Tetrinote that lies in the closest proximity of the restive Line of Control (LoC).

DIG of Poonch Tahir Mehmood Qureshi told Dawn that the decision to stop the marchers was taken in the interest of their safety and that “their leaders had given an undertaking to the administration that they would not go beyond a designated spot to avoid the risk of Indian shelling”.

Police resort to tear gas shelling to disperse marchers; 12 policemen injured in stone pelting, claims DIG

However, the marchers disregarded the commitment and insisted to go beyond the designated spot in Dawarandi, the DIG alleged. In the meanwhile, some of the marchers climbed the adjacent mountains and pelted stones on the police.

The DIG claimed that 12 police personnel were injured, one of them critically, due to stone pelting.

He admitted that police resorted to tear gas shelling to disperse the marchers, which rendered some of them unconscious for some time. They were rushed to Tehsil Headquarters Hospital, Hajira, for treatment.

The DIF alleged that four ambulances which the administration had placed on standby were damaged by the activists.

He said 25 people were taken into custody after midnight, but three of them were released for not being involved in the activity.

JKLF sources said Sardar Saghir had managed to reach Tetrinote where local activists had set up a sit-in camp on Saturday. The sit-in continued on the second consecutive day on Sunday.

Speaking to the activists in Tetrinote, Mr Saghir demanded “restoration of the revolutionary government of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan” that he said was established on October 24, 1947.

“Pakistan should open the embassy of this government in Islamabad and then get it recognised from all friendly countries so that it may take the reins of freedom movement in its own hands,” he said.

The JKLF leader condemned the arrest of activists and demanded their immediate and unconditional release.

Alleging that the detainees had been “mercilessly” tortured by the police, he also called for a judicial probe into it.

Mr Saghir had given the call for the long march from Rawalakot to Tetrinote and a sit-in for an “indefinite period” in Tetrinote to condemn revocation of India-occupied Kashmir’s special status, imposition of curfew, communication blockade and other repressive measures by India as well as ceasefire violations across the LoC.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2019