4 sarpanches among 8 booked for flouting Covid norms during protest in J&K's Doda

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Bhaderwah (J&K), Jun 26 (PTI) Eight people including four sarpanches were booked for violating COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) here, hours after they blocked the Bhaderwah-Doda highway demanding road connectivity to their villages, officials said on Saturday.

Dozens of villagers led by the sarpanches had on Friday stopped the cavalcade of Farooq Khan, an advisor to Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, for nearly two hours during his visit to Bhaderwah town in Doda district to review developmental works, they said.

Irked over the delay in the construction of a 1.5 km-long road to their villages, the residents of Kursari, Lamote and Kapra staged a dharna on the highway near Kulsari petrol pump and dispersed only after getting an assurance from the advisor that the issue would be resolved on priority.

However, protests broke out on Saturday again as the news of eight people being booked by police spread.

An FIR under section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of Indian Penal Code (IPC), 51 Disaster Management Act Read with Section-3 of Epidemic Diseases Act was registered at the Bhaderwah Police Station on Friday following the protest, a police officer said.

He said the eight people named in the FIR include sarpanches Sajid Mir (Kulsari), Raju (Sungli), Yasir (Nalthi) and Ayaz Khan (Dandi) and teacher Kuldeep Kumar besides Majid Khan, Anchal Singh and Firdous Ahmad Butt.

The official said the protesters violated guidelines imposed to curtail the spread of COVID-19 virus and blocked the road at a time when the advisor was on his way to Bhaderwah on an official visit to address public issues.

The villagers said they are faced with tremendous hardships due to the non-availability of the road.

'We are demanding a basic right as road connectivity is a must for the development of any area. Since the last 10 years, we are being given only false promises,” Sarpanch Sajid Mir said.

Condemning the registration of an FIR, senior Congress leader and former MLA Naresh Gupta said peaceful protest is a fundamental right of the people to seek redressal of their grievances.

He said the police action has caused resentment among the people who are on the roads.

The FIR must be revoked immediately and efforts should be made to fulfil the long pending demand of the villagers, Gupta said. PTI CORR/TAS RHL

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