Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It was a revolution’

NASEER A GANAI

Chahal (Uri), Aug 11: It was a revolution on the roads. For 20 kms we couldn’t sight the road. There were people—shouting pro-freedom and pro-Pakistan slogans.
In the morning we moved from Srinagar to Sopur to cover the march to Muzaffarabad. But police stopped us at Mirgund, in the city outskirts. They didn’t allow any media person to move ahead. “There are orders not to allow anyone, not to even a media person to move ahead,” said the policemen on duty. We returned and took the Hajan route to reach Sopur.
On the way people were cooperative, showing way to the press vehicle.
At Amargard, at 11:00 a.m, people were already on the streets shouting pro-Azadi slogans. The presence of two press vehicles was too little and too late for them. “Where were you?” shouted a youth. He was bursting with anger. He said police in Sangrama fired at peaceful protesters who were marching towards Muzaffarabad. “Two Suporians were killed by police and STF,” the youth said. We heard him and assured him that we would write about it. This mellowed him down to an extent and he gave us passage.
But soon we were among a sea of people. It had no end and no beginning. Near Sangrama chowk we saw two police gypsies destroyed by people and the bunker, empty. “They killed two civilians here. Police fired at the march without any provocation,” an aged and angry Ghulam Nabi Hajam of Sangrama told us. And in the meanwhile some marchers occupied rooftop of our vehicle. The speed of the vehicle slowed down, but not the sprit of people who were marching ahead on foot.
Incidentally, a boy fell from a truck carrying people. Blood was profusely coming out of his head and the people kept him in our vehicle. It gave us a chance to speed up our vehicle. But we couldn’t move at the desired speed. “It is million-man march,” said a young boy who was with the injured.
Thousands and thousands of women were moving along with marchers, shouting pro-Azadi and pro freedom slogans. There were children too, upbeat. At Kanispora Varmul we asked a small boy where he is going. “To Muzaffarabad. My family is also with me and I am from Pathukah,” said Abid Khaliq, a 5th class student.
Somehow we reached Varmul and took a left turn to drop the injured person in Varmul hospital. We kept vehicle in the hospital yard and went ahead along with marchers on foot. In Varmul town the Army on seeing the sea of marchers, shouting pro-freedom slogans, left the scene. Significantly, no one was shouting slogans against the Shrine Board.
In Varmul some youth entered the KMDA Bus Terminal and Food Supplies Office and themselves drove out the parked vehicles. Some people boarded these buses, food supplies vehicles, tractors, scooters, and moved on. It seems they had decided to stop at Muzaffarabad. And we marched along with them on foot. Some 400 buses carrying people were moving on the road mostly used by the Army. There was no army vehicle on the road and the army bunkers were empty.
Interestingly, we saw Sheikh Aziz on a tractor like a commoner when the people were near Sheeri Varmul. And when he waved at us, we didn’t know it would be his last wave to us. All along the way— there were residents ready with eatables, fruits and water for the marchers.
And when we reached, along with these countless people, near Nowshera Boniyar, we had lost sense of time. On our way we continued to spot empty bunkers and no police on the way.
But the march had its first halt at Chahal. Sheikh Aziz waved at the police and the CRPF post there, perhaps wanting to convey them that the march is peaceful. But they ignored the peace gesture and fired at people, including Sheikh Aziz.
“I saw a young boy hit by bullet on the road. His intestines and other vitals were out,” a journalist, who was at the exact spot, some 150 yards from us, said. The police and CRPF had taken positions as if there was a war and were targeting the people by firing at them. People started calling ambulances from Varmul. The ambulances came, but the youth were driving the ambulances themselves. There was a 100-yard difference between the people and the police and CRPF personnel at Chahal. The firing left many people injured, including Sheikh Aziz. But people were not moving back. They stopped there and were cleaning the blood of injured; some of them later expired on way to hospital. Some marchers frightened by the firing retreated, but others continued to march towards Uri.
We were told that police had dug the road at Chahal with GCB.
At about 6 p.m, we decided to return. On the way people were shouting pro-freedom slogans on seeing the ambulances carrying the injured and the dead. In Varmul town people were shouting slogans when the Kashmir Police Chief was present there on the bridge. Police opened fire, injuring a young boy. But the residents told us that the boy died on the spot. Police left the scene after the firing, but people attacked bunkers, burning one and razing down another. The CRPF personnel, who were more in number than the protesters, were watching the fury of people. “Ham Pakistani Hain” (we are Pakistanis), the protesters were shouting in front of the CRPF personal.
On our way back, when we reached Mirgund, we heard Sheikh Aziz has achieved martyrdom and curfew has been imposed in Srinagar and Pulwama.
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