The residents said they feel choked and helpless.
SRINAGAR — The residents of Wanbal area of capital city Srinagar are living in fear after the Jammu and Kashmir Police arrested mother-daughter duo on charges of “rioting” following accusations that they were part of protests that erupted after a recent shootout in the area.
The two women had purportedly protested the killings of two militants — killed in a shootout in nearby Rangreth area on December 13 — videos of which were later widely circulated on social media platforms.
After the killing of two “militants”, local residents, including women, hit the streets protesting the killings and alleged that the two may have been arrested first and were killed later by the armed forces.
Jammu and Kashmir police in a statement later said that the locals of the nearby areas hit the streets, protested and pelted stones on the armed forces and raised “anti-national slogans” which created a law and order problem in the area.
The mother Afroza and her daughter Ayesha were arrested on Tuesday after the police raided their residence at Wanbal locality and were later shifted to Women’s Police Station Rambagh.
At their home in Rose Enclave Wanbal, their relatives are terrified and denied speaking to the media. “We do not want to end up in jail,” one of the relatives at their home said.
“Afroza has two other kids here who are going through a mental trauma. Right now they are suffering without their mother. I don’t want my children to face the same,” one of the ladies yelled from behind the door.
Many residents that the Mountain Ink spoke to, said that they fear they will be arrested if they speak about the incident. “We do not want to face something that Afroza and her family are facing. This is agonizing.”
The residents said that they feel choked and helpless. “There is no freedom of speech at this place (Kashmir). You cannot even criticise the arbitrary behaviour of the authorities,” an enraged resident told Mountain Ink. “Even to demand a just trail or demands of holding the authorities accountable for their actions, will land you in jail and no one wants to end up in jail.”
Another resident said that the people are not even allowed to express their emotions and sentiments, particularly about the incidents like the arrest of mother-daughter duo. “No one dares to talk fearing consequences,” he added.
The arrest of the two women has drawn criticism in the valley with former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister terming it a “new low” for the administration.
“Arresting women in Kashmir marks a new low for the administration that persecutes civilians only to please their masters in Delhi. The situation is getting worse & instead of reaching out to the people, GoI is pushing them to the wall,” Mehbooba tweeted.
Afroza and Aisha were charged under Sections 147 and 148 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly) and 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) of the Indian Penal Code, officials said.
Several social media users have also questioned the ‘authenticity’ of the military operation.
Meanwhile, People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone also condemned the arrest and said that arresting two ladies for merely protesting is highly reprehensible and in violation of democratic norms.
“It is extremely suffocating to live in a place where the government’s sword is perpetually hanging over our heads. This administration has gone berserk and is arresting people by every minute. These actions are in brazen violation of democratic and civilized norms,” he said in a statement.
All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also condemned the arrest. “It is very unfortunate that mere raising of slogans is seen as a threat by those in authority.”
APHC asked the authorities to release Afrooza begum and her daughter Ayesha who have “committed no crime except an emotional outburst”.
Another local resident in Rangreth said that despite whatever happened was “suspicious”, nobody in the area would repeat anything about the incident.
“The armed forces did not let the shopkeepers close the shops and some of them left their shops open and ran towards their homes after the army had told them to leave the place. They blocked the area after that and did not allow anyone to go or come from any side,” he said. “They didn’t spare the women, one can imagine what will they do with the men,” he added.
Apni Party president Mohammad Altaf Bukhari also expressed resentment over the arrest and termed the police action as “an unwarranted and uncalled for move against an incident that has put a question mark on the claims of peace building process in Jammu and Kashmir.
“These arbitrary actions are now bolstering a sense of deep alienation among the people and are counterproductive for the efforts to bring peace in Kashmir. Arresting women for raising mere slogans smacks of an intolerant and an autocratic mind-set that does not gel with our country’s democratic ethos,” Bukhari said.