Srinagar: Police have registered an FIR against a well-known humanitarian organisation active for over five years in Chenab valley of Jammu and Kashmir after its volunteers were stopped from distributing food kits in remote villages of Kishtwar during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.
Eight volunteers of Ababeel, one of the trustworthy relief and rescue organisations in Chenab Valley, were stopped by the local police from distributing food kits in Padder area of the district on April 16.
A senior volunteer of Ababeel told The Kashmir Monitor that the local SHO stopped the volunteers who were in the middle of distributing 60 relief kits among the identified families in Kijayi village of Padder.
“Eight of our volunteers along with three vehicles carrying 60 kits of relief were in the middle of distributing them among the identified families in the villages of Padyarna, Kijaye, Layie, and Afani when a policeman approached and asked us to report at the local station,” the volunteer said.
The team till then had distributed 40 of the kits among the families who had contacted them for help.
When the volunteers went to Padder police station, they were allegedly harassed by the Station Officer and the local Sub-divisional Magistrate, who too visited the police station.
“We have never faced any issue in the past as the administration in Kishtwar has always been helpful to us and has appreciated our work. This was the first time when we encountered something like it,” the Ababeel volunteer said.
Another volunteer, who was among the eight against whom the case was registered, alleged they were subjected to harassment and communal jibes.
“The concerned SDM rebuked us saying ‘Aap Musalmano ne har jagah gandd macha ke rakhi hai’ (You Muslims have messed up things everywhere),” the volunteer alleged.
Interestingly, the families Ababeel was distributing the relief among comprised of poor people from different religions.
“We have never based our work on religious lines. The entire Chenab valley knows it. We don’t differentiate on caste or religion when we help people,” the volunteer said.
The police then lodged an FIR (11/2020) against the volunteers under Section 188 (disobedience of order promulgated by a public servant) of the Indian Penal Code.
The volunteer said they were only let go after the District Commissioner intervened.
DC Kishtwar, Rajinder Singh Tara appreciated the “good work” carried out by Ababeel.
“It is a good organisation which helps people especially during accidents and catastrophes,” he said.
He said that going forward the administration will ensure the volunteers of the organisation have all the requisite permission to carry on with the relief work.
Meanwhile, the police released the two vehicles but kept hold of the third one which was eventually taken back by Ababeel through a court order the next day.
“No, we did not harass anyone. There is a lockdown going on and some people had arrived in Padder. They did not have a valid permission. When we asked them how come they visited the place without any permission, they did not have any answer,” SDM Padder, Varunjeet told The Kashmir Monitor.
Asked if he had targeted their religion as alleged by the volunteers, the SDM said: “I am a sub-divisional magistrate. Do you think I can say anything like it?”
The SDM claimed he did even speak to the volunteers though he agreed he had visited the police station.
Asked how come he did not know about the NGO as it was well-known for its work in entire Chenab region, the SDM said he had seen them “for the first time in Padder.”
SHO Padder, Sarabjeet Singh said the FIR was lodged for violating the lockdown but refused to share any more details.