Dried fruits, nuts and spices are displayed at a store at Khari Baoli spice market in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: Ruhani Kaur/Bloomberg)

Kashmiris Selling Dry Fruit Attacked By Saffron-Clad Men In Uttar Pradesh

Two Kashmiris selling dry fruit were thrashed by a group of saffron-clad men in Daliganj locality in Lucknow, following which four persons have been arrested, police said on Thursday.

The incident took place on Wednesday evening, the latest in a series of cases in which Kashmiris across the country were targeted after the Pulwama terror attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel.

The assault on the Kashmiri vendors, which was caught on camera, was strongly condemned by Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The Kashmiri youths were selling dry fruit on Daliganj bridge and a group of men beat them up, terming them stone pelters,” Senior Superintendent of Police Kalanidhi Naithani told reporters.

Local people, however, rushed to their rescue and informed the police, he said.

An “alert citizen” also made a video of the attack, following which police teams swung into action and arrested the main accused, Bajrang Sonkar.

Sonkar has more than a dozen criminal cases including that of murder, loot, theft and under the Arms Act pending against him, he said.

On a tip-off, three others — Himanshu Garg, Aniruddh and Amar Kumar — were also arrested on Thursday, Naithani said.

Sonkar claims to be the president of a little-known Vishwa Hindu Dal.

Naithani said the victims, Abdul Salaam and Mohammed Afzal, are from south Kashmir’s Kulgam district and come here during winters to sell dry fruit.

The victims later told media persons that they were satisfied with the police action, which they termed prompt.

Naithani said police wanted to give a stern message that such acts would not be tolerated and those involved will be brought to book.

An FIR was lodged at Hasangaj police station under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 307 (attempt to murder), and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, a police official said.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the assault in Lucknow hurt the idea of India.

“Nothing will do more damage to the idea of India in Jammu & Kashmir than videos like these. Keep thrashing Kashmiris like this on the streets at the hands of RSS/Bajrang Dal goons & then try to sell the idea of 'atoot ang' (integral part), it simply won’t fly,” he said in a series of tweets.

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“Dear PM @narendramodi Sahib, this is what you had spoken against & yet it continues unabated. This is the state governed by your handpicked Chief Minister. Can we expect action in this case or do we file your concern & assurances as a jumla, meant to placate but nothing more?” he asked.

Abdullah also posed a question to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who represents the Lucknow seat in Lok Sabha, that if he would step in to deliver the justice in this case.

“Jenab @rajnathsingh Sahib. You represent this constituency in the Lok Sabha, this is the constituency where Vajpayee Sb was elected from & went on to be PM. If no one else will step in & deliver justice can we expect you to punish those guilty of this assault?” he said.

People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti accused the central government of encouraging such people to polarise society.

“Kashmiris are being hounded & punished. The culprits here were clad in saffron kurtas & are from the VHD. They have no fear & in fact uploaded the video on SM. GoIs conspicuous silence is actually a political tactic to encourage such elements & communalise the atmosphere until polls (sic),” she tweeted.

“You humiliate & assault Kashmiris. Make them feel like criminals & that they don’t belong to this country. Why are you surprised then when young pliable men are taken under the wings of terror groups & indoctrinated?” she said.

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