In a grave turn of events in the month-long agitation for district status, one of the protestors on Wednesday made an unsuccessful attempt to immolate himself within the office premises of Sub Divisional Magistrate at Nowshera. Identified as Rohit Kohli, a member of the joint action committee, spearheading the 33-day-long agitation in Nowshera, he took everybody by surprise when he suddenly sprinkled kerosene on himself and tried to set himself afire in the afternoon. The rest of the agitators were taking lunch being served at a community centre organized by Nowshera Beopar Mandal within the premises of SDM office premises at that time.
However, Kohli was immediately overpowered by others present on the spot, sources said, and he was rushed to a local hospital. Kohli had also consumed a sizeable quantity of kerosene as well. “Though his condition was stable, we referred him to Government Medical College Hospital at Jammu as a precautionary measure,” said officiating Block Medical Officer, Nowshera, Dr Liaquat Hussain.
Since February 16, normal life in Nowshera town has been paralysed, with all shops and business establishments closed, as people have taken to the streets demanding district status to an area comprising Nowshera, Sunderbani and Kalakote sub divisions. Even state government offices and banks have remained shut, with officials wary of confronting the protesters.
The traders have incurred losses worth nearly Rs 200 crore on account of the bandh even though an early end to the ongoing agitation does not appear in sight. The tempers are so heightened that the Hindu-dominated Nowshera town even witnessed pro-Pakistan slogans from those who had worked for sitting BJP MLA Ravinder Raina during the 2014 Assembly elections.
Locals attribute the trouble to the fissures between PDP and BJP, saying that the provocation followed the appointment of an additional deputy commissioner by the government at Kotranka, a sub division forming part of Darhal assembly constituency represented by PDP minister Chowdhary Zulfikar Ali.