Updated: August 27, 2021 8:34:58 pm
Thousands of people, including women and children, were stranded at various places along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway under the scorching sun since Friday morning after ABVP, the students’ wing of BJP, blocked the road in protest against the Union Territory administration for demolishing a toilet block and a computer lab at the Government Higher Secondary School in Ramban.
The structures were demolished by the local administration to pave way for the installation of an oxygen plant for the Trauma Hospital adjoining the school building. This is the second oxygen plant being set up at Ramban with the earlier one being commissioned at the district hospital.
The road blockade came a day after police resorted to lathi-charge at the protestors Thursday night. Expressing anguish over police action, senior ABVP leaders took to Twitter accusing the local police of “brutally thrashing” their activists protesting against “illegal demolition of school labs and toilets for construction of an oxygen plant by the administration at the GHSS Ramban”. They also accused police of having arrested 12 activists, describing it as “a very shameful act”.
Responding to them on the microblogging site, Additional Director General of Police, Jammu, Mukesh Singh, wrote, “Matter (is) being looked into. The protestors were obstructing installation of oxygen plant at Ramban before 3rd wave which is a serious matter.”
However, it did not cool down the tempers as ABVP activists, barely 200 of them, Friday morning blocked the national highway at Ramban demanding suspension of the local SHO and release of their colleagues arrested by police. The protestors were joined by senior ABVP leaders, including their UT president Dr Parwinder Singh, who arrived there from Jammu.
“ABVP is not opposing the installation of the oxygen plant. Our protest is against the demolition of the school building. We support setting up of an oxygen plant but not by demolishing a school,” said ABVP’s North Zone Organising Secretary Vijay Partap.
“No problem can be solved by lathi-charging students and misbehaving with girl students,” tweeted another leader, adding, “We are not in the way of building an oxygen plant. Oxygen plant should be built but on a different land. Not on the land of a school.”
Senior civil and police officers of the district held a series of meetings with ABVP leaders and tried to persuade them to ask the protestors to lift the blockade but to no avail.
“We asked the administration to immediately suspend the SHO who lathi-charged peaceful protestors and manhandled girls, besides immediate unconditional release of all those picked up the previous night,” said ABVP UT president Dr Parwinder Singh.
“We told the administration that they can arrest more of us but the blockade will be lifted only after our demands are met,” he said, adding, they have also demanded the administration to withdraw cases, if any, registered against the protestors.
In Jammu, ABVP activists held a demonstration in protest against police action against their party members at Ramban. Nearly a dozen protestors were taken into custody by police after they tried to take out a procession from the Press Club, sources said, adding, they were released in the evening.
Meanwhile, hundreds of vehicles, including passenger buses and load carriers transporting essential commodities and perishable items to Kashmir Valley, were stranded at various places along the national highway as civil and police officials in the district were unable to clear the road.
In one of the stranded trucks, over a dozen sheep died due to the scorching heat.
Till 7pm, there were no chances of getting the highway reopened as protestors were still sitting on the road. “The blockade will continue until our demands are met and the local SHO is suspended,” said a senior ABVP leader.