Coronavirus Outbreak: Doctors, power workers beaten up as J&K Police enforces lockdown; crowds broke curfew, say cops

Srinagar: A number of videos have emerged on social networking sites showing the Jammu And Kashmir Police roughing up residents, health workers as well as power department workers during the unprecedented nationwide lockdown that has been enforced across India in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The videos, shot mostly by local photographers, also shows cops forcing residents to do sit-ups for violating the 21-day lockdown.

In the Charar-e-Sharief area of Budgam district, residents accused the police of not only baton-charging them but also disallowing them from buying medicines and essential commodities after fresh coronavirus cases were reported from the Valley.

The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has seen at least 16 confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus while one person has died due to COVID-19 disease.

Even doctors, as well as the staff of government-run Power Development Department (PDD), have accused the police of preventing them from attending to their duties.

A medic, Dr Samiullah Dar, posted at Zainapora area of Shopian, said that he was assaulted by a policeman at around 5 pm at Muran Chowk in Pulwama on Thursday. He said that he was not allowed to “go home” after he had returned from duty even after showing his ID card and the curfew pass.

“I was beaten up badly and hit with the butt of a gun while I was returning home from duty at the community health centre (CHC) in Zainapora. The cop even took away my phone to check whether or not I had taken any photos before I was allowed to go,” he said, adding that he has taken up the matter with higher officials of the Health Department, who have assured him action on the issue.

The police action against those dealing with essential services like healthcare continues even though the authorities have asked the police to ensure that they were not disrupted in the lockdown that is in place in the UT.

Authorities in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have also issued orders stating that “in view of the circumstances due to outbreak of COVID-19, the general public is hereby informed that no routine patients should come to the hospital. Only the emergency cases will be entertained”.

“The restrictions on our movement could hamper our fight against the coronavirus,” said another doctor, wishing anonymity for fear of reprisal.

He also said that police action has come despite the fact that "most of the hospitals have been converted into coronavirus quarantine and treatment centres" and the “work of routine healthcare treatment was suspended”.

People involved in other essential services such as electricity have also complained of the police obstructing their movement and work.

An engineer of the PDD said that the staff had a heated exchange with the police in the Rajbagh neighborhood of Srinagar after they were prevented from carrying out “electricity repairs".

“How would services like hospitals run if we are not able to repair the faults? Repairing a fault is not one man’s job and four-five people are required to attend to a breakdown,” the engineer said.

In the Charar-e-Sharief area of Budgam, a number of residents said that they were disallowed from buying essential commodities and even medicines while some were roughed up.

A local vegetable seller said that he was detained for several hours at the police station while another grocery dealer was not even allowed to open his shop.

On Wednesday night, mosques in the area reverberated with pleas, urging the police not to harass people “without provocation".

Nagpure Amod Ashok, Superintendent of Police, Budgam, said that “People had gathered in thousands on the roads in violation of the government orders, causing immense danger to people's lives, hence they were dispersed accordingly.”

However, Ashok refuted the allegations of the police obstructing people from buying essential items. “Medical emergencies and essential supplies were allowed to pass during the curfew and nobody is stopped from buying medicines and food,” he added.

On Thursday, authorities said that they will issue passes to those engaged in essential duties to reach their offices, but several doctors and PDD staff said they have not received them.

Aijaz Ahmad Dar, the chief engineer of the power distribution department in Kashmir, said that they have received limited passes and asked the administration to "speed up the issuing of passes so that the people can attend to their duties”.

When asked about the videos showing the police roughing up locals and forcing them to do sit-ups, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, said that he would not be in a position to comment.

The videos shared on WhatsApp with the Director-General of Police, Dilbagh Singh, didn’t elicit any response.

Updated Date: Mar 28, 2020 18:41:42 IST

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