MUZAFFARABAD, April 9: At least five of the 27 detained former Kashmiri freedom fighters were wounded allegedly during a clash with other prisoners in the central jail on Saturday, sources said.
The clash erupted after some of the local under-trial and convicted prisoners shouted abuse on the former militants for using a blanket while they were observing a “hunger strike”, the sources said.
Affiliated with the Jammu Kashmir United Real Movement, the detainees, some of whom had married here and ran small businesses to earn livelihood, were taken into custody on Wednesday evening — a day ahead of the launching ceremony of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service — to avert what the officials claimed any law and order problem.
Nineteen of them were kept in the city police station and the rest in the nearby Kahori police station before being moved to the central jail on Friday.
The JKURM had publicly celebrated the Feb 16 announcement by India and Pakistan to start the bus service between the divided Kashmiri capitals. It had criticized those Kashmiri leaders who were opposed to the bus service.
An official, told Dawn that the JKURM members were arrested under 3 MPO (Maintenance of Public Order), after “intelligence reports suggested that they could block the smooth movement of the trans-Kashmir bus”.
However, a JKURM member showed a pamphlet to this correspondent issued by the group wherein it had asked its members and other residents of the capital to assemble near Domel at 10am on April 7 “to welcome the guests (arriving) from Srinagar (through the bus service)”.
“We just wanted to welcome the guests from Srinagar because we have publicly celebrated this historic development the time it was announced,” he said.
“The officials had assured that they would release them by Friday morning but instead of fulfilling their commitment they shifted them to prison,” he lamented.
Wife of one of the detainees approached this correspondent on Saturday to narrate her ordeal following the arrest of her husband.
“For the past three nights I am staying alone in our (rented) house with my one-year-old daughter and with no one to feed us,” she said weeping bitterly.
Officials had hinted that the detainees would be freed only after they “provide a guarantee in writing that they will not create any problem in future”.
The sources said that an application was submitted by the detainees in the district magistrate’s office on Saturday for their release in which they had also given assurance of abiding the law.
The district magistrate was out of Muzaffarabad on some personal engagement, his office said.
Meanwhile, leaders of the All Parties National Alliance, a conglomerate of pro-independence Kashmiri groups, have rejected the officials’ claims regarding the detainees as “white lies”.
“In fact they wanted to express jubilation on the occasion and condemn the attack at tourist centre in Srinagar,” said the leaders, including Prof M.A.R.K Khaleeque, Shaukat Maqbool Butt, Waqar Kazmi, in a statement.
The APNA leaders called upon the government to release them at the earliest to avoid unrest.