Police firing tear-gas shells on protesters at Nowshera market in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday
Shocked at police action against ‘nationalists’, outraged protesters accused police of turning Jammu into Kashmir
Violent protests in Nowshera, a Hindu-majority area, were on Saturday curbed by a heavy-handed police with cane-charges and tear-gas shells. Cases of sedition were lodged against four protesters, namely Arun Gupta(37), Ashish Gupta(24), Gurmeet Singh (48) and Avtar Singh (60).
Police action followed pro-Pakistani slogans raised by protesters who have been agitating for the past month and a half for upgrading Nowshera as a district. Now a part of Rajouri district in J & K, Nowshera on the Line of Control was part of Pakistan’s Mirpur district.
Every year Nowshera Day is celebrated by Army on February 6 to commemorate the sacrifice of jawans and local residents who laid down their lives while fighting Pakistani intruders in 1947.
Disillusioned with the state government, BJP ministers and local MLA Ravinder Raina, the protesting youth, mostly Hindus, had reportedly raised pro-Pakistan slogans in recent weeks. At least two videos of such demonstrations in which pro-Pakistan sloganeering was reported from Nowshera recently, have been making round on social media.
The four people charged with sedition are reportedly absconding. While Avtar Singh has served in the Army, Gurmeet Singh used to run an Army canteen. The other two accused Arun and Ashish Gupta were BJP workers till recently.
After some protesters took shelter and started demonstrating inside the Sub District Hospital, Nowshera, police reportedly fired tear gas shells on the hospital premises as well. Mobile phone and internet services were suspended by authorities.
Later, the protesters shouted anti-government and anti-BJP slogans and blocked Jammu-Poonch highway for several hours. Police on Friday had foiled “Jammu chalo march” by the protesters.
“The PDP-BJP has turned Nowshera into Kashmir,” said a protester, pleading anonymity. “We have been holding peaceful demonstrations for the past one and half month. But today the police pelted us with stones and didn’t allow us to stage a protest. The government seems helpless before Kashmiri protesters who carry Pakistani and ISIS flags. But it is using its might against the nationalist and patriotic border residents.”
On March 21, on the 34th day of the indefinite strike by Nowshera residents over district status, a protester Rohit Kohli attempted self-immolation. After having sprinkled petrol on himself and drinking some quantity of petrol, he had set himself ablaze.