School bus torched to enforce Geelani’s shutdown
6 youth on 2 bikes set the bus on fire in Sagar’s Khanyar area
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Authoritative sources, claiming to be quoting eyewitness accounts and preliminary investigation, told Early Times that half-a-dozen youth, three each on two motorcycles, appeared at Rangar Stop in Khanyar area of the capital city at 0815 hours. A bus of
, Badamwari, was parked on the road and a number of the young students were boarding the vehicle. The youth on the motorcycles sprinkled petrol on the bus and set it on fire. Driver Muzaffar Ahmed of Rainawari quickly pulled down one-odd student who had just boarded and taken a seat. Under fear, all the students and their attendants ran away in different directions. Tibetan Public School
The bus, bearing registration No: JK01N-9076, gutted completely before men from Police Station of Khanyar reached the spot. The rescued pupil’s bag, containing his books, notebooks and lunch refreshment, also perished in the blaze. Eyewitnesses told Police that all the six youth escaped comfortably without facing any resistance. Police Station Khanyar registered a criminal matter and launched investigation.
Official sources later insisted that two of the six youth, who were responsible for torching the school bus, were identified and they were likely to be arrested in the next 24 hours.
SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, refused to confirm or deny that two of the six saboteurs had been identified. He, however, asserted that today’s subversive act was “an organized strike” from Geelani’s followers who desperately wanted to enforce shutdown called by the separatist leader. “We had not put in place any Police or security bandobust as we had not expected any attack on schools, school buses and students. Schools and colleges have been operating in total defiance of Hurriyat’s call since October. No such complaint or apprehension had surfaced in the last over one month”, SSP said.
Though followers of the separatist leaders, particularly those of Geelani, have been pelting stones on school buses and some of the students have sustained injuries in scores of such strikes, it is for the first time that a school bus has been torched to spread fear among students and teachers, obviously in a desperate attempt to enforce shutdown. Geelani, as well as all other separatist and mainstream politicians remained tightlipped and they did not condemn today’s incident.
However, Minister of Rural Development and National Conference’s MLA from Khanyar, Ali Mohammad Sagar, and Minister of School Education, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, condemned torching of the school bus in their separately circulated statements.
Reports said that notwithstanding the incident of subversion at Khanyar, all government-run and private educational institutions, including the targeted
, functioned fearlessly. Students, their parents and teachers, besides the common people, showed no hesitation in publicly condemning today’s incident. They were heard invariably complaining that about 130 days of shutdown and curfew this summer had already spoiled almost the full academic year in the Valley. Tibetan Public School
Reports said that followers of the separatist leaders appeared on the streets at some places and they pelted stones on the shops and vehicles found open in defiance of Geelani’s call. Some of the shopkeepers shuttered their businesses but most of them remained unfazed. According to these reports, Geelani’s call had some impact in parts of
, Baramulla, Sopore and Anantnag towns. Still a section of businesses and transport functioned normally in these towns. Reports from other towns said that businesses, schools, government and private offices functioned as usual and there was little evidence of any shutdown. Srinagar
Three identified youth, killed in the Qamarwari shootout on October 29th, were all militants according to Police who were killed in an encounter after they gunned down a Constable. However, some of the separatist leaders, including Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, besides the ruling National Conference’s Lok Sabha Member from North Kashmir, Sharief-ud-din Shariq, have described the trio as innocent and alleged that they had been killed by Police in cold blood in a fake encounter.