SRINAGAR,KASHMIR: Youths shouting anti-India slogans pelted stones and clashed with security forces on Saturday in Srinagar’s Hazratbal area during the first-ever marathon in a state already tense over a beef ban.
Officials said security personnel were forced to lob tear gas shells and cane a large number of youths who vandalised the dais at the venue where the marathon started near the University of Kashmir campus.
The 21-km half-marathon was organised to raise awareness on saving the Srinagar’s iconic Dal Lake and more than 1,500 people are said to have participated in the event.
“The situation is under control now,” agencies quoted an unnamed police official as saying.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah was also scheduled to take part in the event but later cancelled it following advice from security officials.
Officials said trouble started brewing before the start of the marathon when some youths raised anti-India slogans and later allegedly assaulted some of the participants.
Some participants, however, blamed mismanagement and lack of coordination for the turn of events.
“The organisers were more interested in the concert after the marathon than the event. It was free for all, there was no crowd control,” said one of the participants.
Another participant alleged that the youth were angry as there was no provision for water.
The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), on the other hand, claimed that some miscreants allegedly indulged in “eve-teasing and molestation” of female participants during the marathon leading to “disturbances”.
“Some people tried to misbehave with female participants. There were many complaints of eve-teasing and molestation which are condemnable,” said Waheed Para, PDP youth president and political analyst to chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
The organisers, however, refuted the charges of mismanagement.
“Thousands of people participated. Our aim was to conduct the marathon which we did. In a crowd this large, 10 or 15 miscreants created trouble,” said Muzaffar Shah, a member of the organising team.
The state has seen intermittent clashes after the Jammu high court clamped a state-wide ban on the sale of beef, which is being seen as a curtailment of freedom of choice by the Kashmir valley’s Muslim populace. The Valley also observed a statewide shutdown on Friday against the ban.