On Friday, at midnight, hundreds of policemen appeared outside the house of Nisar Ahmad Sheikh, an alleged stone pelter, in Pulwama district, dragged him out of his bed and threw him into a police van.
This step, according to police, was taken after this “chronic stone pelter” failed to appear before the police, despite having received several notices to surrender.
“They were banging the door as if a mob had descended on my house to burn it down. And then they dragged my son by his hair before throwing him in the car,” Sheikh’s father, Ghulam Ahmad, said on phone.
As the bypolls for the Srinagar and Anantnag constituency draw close, the Kashmir police have stepped up their number of arrests in the four volatile districts of south Kashmir to prevent the youth, who have been at the forefront of the protests, from carrying out anti-election campaigning.
The Senior Superintendent of police (SSP) Pulwama, Mohammad Rayees Bhat, said that the arrested boys were wanted in several cases of stone pelting, and all of them were “chronic stone pelters.”
“Police carried most of the raids during the night. We arrested 12 people for throwing stones at police and when they failed to show up at the station we carried out these raids and arrested them,” the SSP said.
However, he denied that the arrests have to do anything with the upcoming elections that are scheduled for this month, amid continuing violence in south Kashmir. Sources in the Kashmir police say that in Pulwama district alone, the police have arrested more than 100 youth in the past few weeks.
The story is repeated in almost every district of south Kashmir. Police are targeting youth who may have been involved in the 2008, 2010 and 2016 unrest: The latter left close to a hundred people dead after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani in June last year.
According to the police, the militants have also started planning to disrupt the upcoming polls. On Thursday, the police in Kulgam district busted a Hizbul Mujahideen module by arresting seven suspected militants who were allegedly tasked to disrupt the upcoming Lok Sabha bypolls.
The arrests intensified after hundred of youngsters started thronging encounter sites to provide safe passage to militants. Sources in the police department say the same youth could be deployed for anti-election campaign. And that is what happened recently when police in Braw Bandian village of Awantipora arrested a youth while carrying election boycott posters.
The political activity in south of Kashmir has been missing on the ground as political parties fear that mobs might throws stones at venues. So, campaigning has remained confined to the government Dak Banglow’s in different districts. That is perhaps why Tassaduq Hussain Mufti, the PDP candidate for Anantnag parliamentary seat, told his workers recently to avoid risking their lives for his win.
The police have also rounded up more than 20 youth in Shopian. That number is likely to go up. But family members allege harassment at the hands of police during raids, and say that their childrens' release is often delayed even after getting bail from the courts.
“Our son was released three time by the court but police kept pilling up cases against him to keep him in custody,” Rafiq Ahamd Rather, a resident of Shopian district said.
During the 2016 unrest the police arrested more than 7000 people in valley to quell the protests and the stone pelting. While the courts ordered many of them released, 350 of them were slapped with the Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows detention for a maximum of two years without trial.
Sheikh, meanwhile, remains in police custody. His father is wondering when the police will release him.
Updated Date: Apr 02, 2017 11:45 AM