At least 35 persons including 12 Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) troopers were injured while 300 tents of locals and 6 non-local community kitchens turned into ashes after set on fire during clahes, which broke out in Baltal area of central Kashmirs North district Gandarbal.
The clashes started after a youth, Nabi Khan, 24, a pony owner was allegedly attacked with a knife by a non-local cook and beaten up when he was sleeping in a tent last night.
Early morning when the news about the incident spread across several locals came on streets and started throwing stones at vendors who were supposed to be the supporters of the cook. A local news agency reported that a free langar managed by few people hailing from Katra argued with a pony owner after he refused to take a pilgrim from base camp to Amarnath cave.
Sajad Ahmad, a resident of Baltal, told The Kashmir Walla that during the clashes paramilitary forces harassed local residents unnecessarily and alleged Jammu and Kashmir police of saving local residents who were present there. “CRPF damaged cars, tin-shed where drivers assemble, and torched some shops containing shawls,” Sajad said.
Another resident who wished not to be named told The Kashmir Walla that the paramilitary forces also started aerial firing. “We left our shops and tents open to hide somewhere from the wrath of CRPF [paramilitary forces] and when we returned we found ashes. “I lost my 10 tents and almost 15000 rupees that I had left in them. All Yatries were safe and no one touched them. They are comfortable and looked in good condition,” he added.
Meanwhile traders in Sonamarg, Kulan and Kangan downed their shutters and staged a protest against the CRPF for instigating violence.
A police handout said that the situation was brought under control without any injuries to anyone. “However some tents and a few Langars have caught fire. Police and Fire Service departments are on job to control the fire.”
Inspector General of Police Abdul Gani Mir told a news agency that it was a minor incident and the Yatra continued as usual. “All Yatries and locals are safe and the situation is under control,” he said, adding that the presence of gas cylinders in tents took some time in controlling the fire.
Meanwhile Panthers party, Shiv Sena and Amaranth Langar Association have called for shutdown in Jammu on Saturday, July 19. (With inputs from CNS)