SRI NAGAR: The first-ever international half marathon in Kashmir on Sunday was marred by pro-Pakistan sloganeering, stone pelting and clashes between stone-pelting youth and policemen, besides incidents of eve-teasing and molestation.
According to police, 12 people were arrested for incidents of eve-teasing and molestation during the 21-km ‘Big Kashmir Marathon’.
BJP leader and Minister for Public Health Engineering Sukhnandan Kumar flagged off the event at Kashmir University, Hazratbal, at 6.30 am on Sunday.
The Jammu and Kashmir Government said runners from countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia along with 15,0000 people took the route along the banks of Dal Lake on Foreshore Road.
More than an hour after the event began, some masked youth waved Pakistani flags and chanted pro-Pakistan slogans at the university campus, where the marathon award ceremony was to be held.
The venue soon turned into a battleground with youth chanting anti-India slogans pelting stones and mineral water bottles at the police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel in the vicinity.
Police soon resorted to a lathicharge and also fired tear smoke shells. The clashes continued for about an hour and campus plunged into total chaos. People ran for cover to escape the tear smoke shells, stones and mineral water bottles.
With trouble mounting, the authorities postponed the award ceremony and vacated the area.
J&K Sports Minister Imran Raza Ansari and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who were also scheduled to attend the function, cancelled their visit after the clashes.
The marathon was organised 92.7 Big FM, in collaboration with the Communication and Capacity Development Unit of the Department Public Health Engineering, Irrigation and Flood Control and other private players. Its main aim was to raise awareness on various social issues, including the importance of adhering to traffic rules, water conservation, keeping environment clean and respecting elders.
An official spokesman said that after the situation returned to normal, a ‘Dream Run’ was held from the same venue, in which women, children and the elderly participated.
Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani hailed the courage exhibited by the youth in foiling the marathon at the university.
“The educational institutions are meant to impart quality education among youth and make them well-equipped, so that they can serve the humanity with all their capabilities. But here, India is using even the education centres to implement its nefarious designs,” Geelani alleged.
Education Minister and government spokesman Naem Akhtar said despite the desperate attempts by some disruptive elements to sabotage the event, about 15,000 people, including some international athletes, participated in the marathon.