On Pakistan’s independence day; Kashmir blacked out

On Pakistan’s independence day; Kashmir blacked out
Three youths carry Pakistani and JKLF flags while crossing the Weir bridge on Sunday
Three youths carry Pakistani and JKLF flags while crossing the Weir bridge on Sunday

SRINAGAR: Amid a complete communication blockade, normal life remained crippled in Kashmir Valley on the 37th consecutive day since the uprising began on July 8, the day Burhan Wani was killed. On Sunday an unprecedented blackout on internet, both broadband and mobile, was in place that hampered the publication of newspapers and dissemination of information.
The authorities put these curbs to thwart the pro-freedom leadership’s referendum rally to Lal Chowk, blocking the town square with concertina wires from all sides. Dozens of barricades were laid to hamper public movement, which was already negligible due to strict curfew in parts of the city.
Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq attempted to join the referendum march but they were not allowed to move a few yards beyond their residences. They were later taken into temporary custody.
Geelani staged a sit-in outside his Hyderpora residence after police did not allow him to march towards Lal Chowk, witnesses said.
Police also sent back 15-year-old girl Jhanvi Behal, who along with a few male members had come from Ludhiana to unfurl the tricolour at the clock tower in Lal Chowk on the occasion of India’s  70th Independence Day. Behal was sent back from Srinagar airport.
Despite unprecedented curbs to thwart referendum march announced by the resistance leadership, thousands of people on Sunday defied shoot-at-sight threats to take part in pro-freedom rallies on Pakistan’s Independence Day. Pakistan flags were hoisted in several parts of Kashmir and clashes took place between protesters and government forces that had been deployed in every nook and corner of Kashmir to curb public movement. Dozens of protesters were injured in clashes at Baramulla, Bandipora, Tral, Soibugh, Hiller and Malangpora.
At Khudwani in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, thousands of people chanting pro-freedom slogans held a march and demanded complete freedom for the beleaguered Kashmiri people suppressed for the past seven decades. Sources said that militants unfurled the Pakistani flag in the gathering and offered gun salute to it. The event cheered the participants who rented the air with pro-Pakistan slogans.
“We have been ordered not to participate in public gatherings but as it is the occasion of Pakistan’s Independence Day, we have arrived here to tell the people to adhere to the programme of the united leadership and be cautious of  elements who want to create a wedge between the people,” one of the masked militants said.
Similar rallies were a norm in almost every pocket of south Kashmir. Reports of huge gatherings came from Gur, Anchidora and Batpora villages. At Malangpora near Awantipora, the government forces ransacked a podium specially erected by the locals to hold a massive referendum rally. Despite a pre-dawn vandalising of the podium, a huge gathering of villagers staged pro-freedom demonstrations there. Sources said that clashes erupted in the area that led to injuries to nine protesters. Some injured villagers were shifted to Srinagar for treatment.
The government forces fired tear smoke shells and pellets to disperse protesters at Keegam, causing injuries to several villagers. One injured person was later shifted to Srinagar for treatment. At Jabalipora in Bijbehara area, several villagers were wounded in police action against protesters.
Police and paramilitaries deployed in strength prevented a huge assembly of women at Eidgah Tral, where Burhan Wani, the youth icon whose death on July 8 sparked off the ongoing resistance movement in Kashmir, lies buried. The gathering was being held under the leadership of Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Aasiya Andrabi, who had reached the besieged town on Saturday.
However, the marchers shifted to nearby Darul Uloom where a rally was held. The government forces even attempted to take Andrabi into custody from the Darul Uloom area but she was shielded by the local women. Several women were injured in the clashes.
Sources said that government forces had hoisted the Indian national flag on a mobile tower during the night replacing a green flag that was flattering over it for the past several days. On seeing this, the locals got infuriated and held a sit-in. They refused to withdraw from the main chowk until the tricolour was pulled down. Sources said that in the afternoon the government forces pulled down the flag after which the agitated youngsters dispersed.
Protesters in large numbers held demonstrations in front of an army camp at Daharmuna village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district. This led to clashes and several protesters were injured by bullets and pellets. Sources said that six persons received firearm injuries in the incident. Three of them including Muzaffar Malik and Asif Ahmad, both teenagers, were referred to Srinagar for treatment.
Police in a statement said that “2000 miscreants” staged protests at Daharmuna and during tackling of the situation, 6 persons were injured.
In Baramulla, children and women were among hundreds of protesters who came out of their homes to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence day. Several children were wounded in the government forces action, including a few media persons.
Nisar Malik, a photojournalist with Kashmir Reader, escaped miraculously after he was caught in pellet firing on the venue.
Reprots said that Pakistani flags were hoisted at Sopore, Palhalan and Pattan areas. In Sheeri, a bike rally was organised which went all around the area.
In Uri, Pakistani flags were raised at conspicuous spots during the night that were later removed by the government forces.
In north Kashmir’s Bandipora area, clashes with government forces were the norm of the day. Hundreds of people gathered at Gulshan Chowk of the town and hoisted Pakistani flags. Pakistan’s national anthem was blaring on the public address system of mosques for the entire day.
Referendum rallies were also held at Nussu and Aragam villages.
The joint resistance leadership had asked people to hold “Referendum March” and march towards Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on Sunday. Authorities since Saturday have imposed strict curfew across Kashmir to foil the “Referendum March”

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