Pakistani police used canes and rifle butts to break up a march Friday by survivors of the Oct. 8 earthquake who were protesting their eviction from a makeshift camp. Several demonstrators were injured. The violence broke out as about 200 people marched through a street in central Muzaffarabad, the quake-ravaged capital of Pakistani-held Kashmir. Some 50 police blocked the protesters' path, then began dispersing the crowd with rifle butts and canes.
Several protesters responded by throwing rubble at the police, though the march had been largely peaceful. Several protesters were injured. Police defended their action, saying one officer was hurt earlier in the day at the Jalalabad Camp, set up in a public park next to the town's collapsed library.
"We were just trying to clear the road," said Arshad Jura, the officer in charge at the scene. He added that no protesters were arrested, though several people were seen being dragged away.
One of the protesters, Salim Shah, was left lying by the road after allegedly being beaten with bamboo batons. He said he was waiting for a doctor.
"They ordered us to leave the Jalalabad gardens," he said, his tearful 12-year-old daughter Saima standing at his side. "They said they would come with bulldozers, so we protested. We have no other place to go."
Quake survivors have been setting up informal camps all over the city, most of them lacking adequate sanitation and considered to constitute a public health risk.
The magnitude 7.6 quake centered in Kashmir killed about 86,000 people in Pakistani territory and another 1,350 in India, destroying bridges, roads, and the homes of more than 3 million people, along with hospitals, government offices and more than 10,000 schools, reports the AP. I.L.