- Two Kashmiri dry fruits sellers were attacked yesterday in Lucknow
- The attackers claimed the men were attacked because they are from Kashmir
- The Kashmiri men have been selling dry fruits in Lucknow for many years
Two dry fruit vendors from Kashmir were attacked by men from a fringe right-wing group in Lucknow last evening, amid the nationwide backlash on Kashmiris following the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama. Four of the attackers have been arrested after videos of the attack were widely shared.
In one video, the vendors, sitting on the roadside with their wares spread out, were seen being beaten up by men dressed in saffron. The Kashmiris are seen trying to shield their heads and pleading the attackers to stop. Another video shows the attackers asking the second vendor for his identify card as he tried to pack up and leave. One of them is even heard saying the men were being beaten up as they were Kashmiris.
Mohammmed Afzal Naik and Abdul Salaam, however, were rescued by some of the locals, who advised the attackers not to "take law into your own hands" and to call in the police.
"These men just descended on us. They started beating us and calling us terrorists. We have been coming for 20 years. Something like this has never happened with us before," one of the dry fruit sellers said while describing the traumatic moments.to reporters.
"They said we are terrorists. We were told that we sell items here and throw stones there. They started thrashing us. They asked for our Aadhaar cards," Mohammmed Afzal Naik said.
The suicide attack in Pulwama had been carried out by a 19-year-old Kashmiri, claimed terror group Jaish-e Mohammed, which had accepted responsibility for the blast that killed 40 men of the Central Reserve Police Force. Since then, Kashmiris - students, traders and others - have been targeted across the country. In most cases, the attackers belonged to right-wing groups.
Yesterday's attackers have been identified, the police said. All are members of the Vishwa Hindu Dal, a right-wing fringe group. Among them is Himanshu Awasthi, who claims to be the group's president. He had bragged about the attack on Facebook, claiming he and his men had carried it out. The video of the attack that he shared on Facebook has been taken down.
Calling it an "unfortunate" and "one-off incident", senior police officer Anand Kumar told NDTV, "We will crack down on such incidents with the entire force of the law. Nobody is above the law and nobody can target innocent citizens like this." .
Jammu and Kashmir politicians Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have condemned the assault.
Tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Omar Abdullah tweeted:
Nothing will do more damage to the idea of India in J&K 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", it simply wont fly. https://t.co/MYkuEuDLjj- Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) March 7, 2019
Several other parties, including the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party and Asaduddin Owaisi have also condemned the assault as did Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
The attack on innocent Kashmiris is condemnable. Our fight is against the separatists and terrorists. We need the people of Jammu and Kashmir with us in the fight against terror.- Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) March 7, 2019
The harassment of Kashmiris has pushed the central government to issue an advisory to the states for their safety. Last month, the Supreme Court had asked 10 states, including Uttar Pradesh, to take "prompt action" to ensure Kashmiris living across the country do not face social boycott or attacks.