Curfew imposed in Chenab Valley areas; Hurriyat leader shot at with shells and pellets in Baramulla, escapes by jumping into the Jhelum; troops fire teargas into homes at Batmaloo ‘randomly’
Srinagar: Public protests and clashes with government troops continued for the 79th straight day of the anti-India uprising in Kashmir on Sunday. After 78 days, markets opened for the first time during the day following the relaxation given by the pro-freedom leadership.
At several places across the Valley, people held demonstrations and hurled rocks at troops that triggered clashes between them.
At least 7 civilians sustained injuries during clashes that erupted after government forces intercepted a pro-freedom march that was carried out from Rajouri Kadal to Nawab Bazar in old city Srinagar.
Witnesses said that forces lobbed several rounds of tear smoke canisters and fired pellets at protesters, causing clashes with youths.
The markets that had opened following the protest programme of pro-freedom leadership were closed once again after contingents of forces were deployed in these localities.
More than 5 civilians sustained injuries during clashes between youths and government forces in the volatile Palhallan area of Sopore town in Baramulla district.
Witnesses said that troops fired dozens of tear smoke canisters and pellets at people who were trying to march towards Rafiabad. The pro-freedom leadership in their protest program had asked people in Baramulla to march towards Rafiabad and hold a pro-freedom seminar-cum-rally there on Sunday.
Scores of people, raising anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, were heading towards the venue when forces intercepted them and fired shells at them. The injured were shifted to sub-district hospital Baramulla and nearby health facilities.
Earlier, strict restrictions were imposed at Rafiabad and surrounding villages to prevent people from marching towards the venue or to hold protest demonstrations. All the entry and exit points on the routes from Baramulla, Sopore and Handwara were sealed with razor wires and no one was allowed to enter or leave the area. Three main markets in Rafiabad remained closed even during the relaxation period.
Government troops raided Banghdara village in Pattan where a pro-freedom seminar was scheduled. Local sources said that a large contingent of forces entered the village and damaged more than 30 residential houses by smashing their windowpanes and front doors. The troops also damaged three power transformers and some other private property.
The residents later held a protest against the forces. They were fired upon with teargas shells and some pellet cartridges were also shot by the troops. Three people sustained injuries because of the action.
At Uthora village of Baramulla, troops ransacked several houses and broke their windowpanes, against which locals held demonstrations. An activist of Hurriyat Conference from Baramulla was shot at with pellets and teargas shells when he tried to move towards Maharajpora area of Sopore town where a pro-freedom seminar was scheduled to be held.
Witnesses said that the activist, Abdul Gani Bhat, was the leader of pro-freedom demonstrations in Baramulla. He was riding a motorcycle when troops saw him and shot at him pellets and teargas shells. One teargas shell and few pellets reportedly hit his arm and body.
To escape arrest by the police, witnesses said that the activist jumped into the river Jhelum and swam to a nearby boat for rescue. From there, sources said, Bhat escaped and went to a nearby health facility for treatment.
Meanwhile, people were seen in markets during the relaxation period to buy essentials. However, at several places shops remained shut and little private transport plied on the roads.
Heavy deployments of CRPF, army and police were made at several places across south districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian districts to thwart “Chalo calls” given by the joint pro-freedom leadership of Kashmir.
As per the protest programme, the people of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts were asked to march towards Dooru, Tral, Shopian and Kulgam towns, respectively.
The troops laid concertina wires at sensitive spots and barricades were erected to prevent people from making the “chalo call” successful. Clashes between youths and government forces erupted at Anantnag town where forces shot tear smoke canisters to disperse stone-throwing youth.
Witnesses said that due to restrictions imposed to thwart pro-freedom rallies, majority of shops remained shut for the 79th day of uprising in which 85 civilians have been killed and more than 16,000 injured by government troops.
Residents of Batamaloo area of Srinagar said that troops fired tear smoke canisters and pepper grenades randomly at people. A Facebook user posted on his wall:
“Today at 5:20 pm, a volley of tear and pepper gas shells were fired randomly in my locality (of) Batamaloo by the forces. Two of these hit the walls of my home and landed in the compound. I almost vomited out my soul as I bellowed in a whole gush of smoke. Even after more than one and a half an-hour, I am feeling choked in my lungs and my head is reeling with a severe headache. My 7 month old niece had a narrow escape, for the shells could have entered through window of the room she was in her cradle (sic),” the post said.
Government forces foiled a pro-freedom rally scheduled to be held at Eidgah in Watapora area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Amid curfew, police and paramilitary CRPF contingents were stationed around Eidgah and at several areas to stop people from reaching the rally venue. Witnesses said that troops also surrounded local mosques so that locals are unable to make announcements through public address systems.
Soon after the deployments vacated the spots, witnesses said that minor clashes erupted between youths and troops as announcements were made on loudspeakers asking people to come out and hold demonstrations against the restrictions.
Meanwhile, police detained chairman of Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) Farooq Ahmad Dar after he addressed a press conference at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on Sunday.
SDPO Kothi Bagh along with his team arrested him outside the central telegraph office. Dar had said that the trade body would bear the treatment cost of people who were injured during the ongoing uprising.
He also said the government should not have announced examination dates for Class 10, 12 in the prevailing situation.
Late-night clashes were reported from Habba Kadal and several areas of old city Srinagar. Several people sustained injuries during the clashes.
In Razloo Kund area in Qazigund, six youths were detained by the army on Saturday evening and were later released after locals protested against their illegal detention.
The government imposed curfew in Kishtwar district of Chenab Valley following clashes that erupted after police tried to arrest some local people.
The police were looking to arrest persons on charges of being involved in “anti-India activities. The people, however, made announcements on public address systems asking people to come out on roads and resists the forces from arresting the persons.
Youth hurled rocks at the policemen after which the government imposed curfew in the area. “Stay home, don’t come out as curfew has been imposed,” police announced in the area, a local said.
According to a statement issued by the police, “miscreants attempted to create disturbances in Anantnag and Sopore. There was no curfew in any part of the valley.”
The statement said that at main chowk Sopore and KP Road Anantnag, “miscreants” in their attempt to create disturbance threw stones on shopkeepers when they were opening their shops on Sunday.
Police and government force deployments immediately reached the spots and chased away “miscreants” and “normalised” the situation, the police said.
“Police, during past 24 hours, arrested 39 more miscreants who were wanted in offences of harassing shopskeepers, creating disruptions in traffic movement by stone pelting and by placing obstructions on roads and lanes, and also found involved in damaging public/private property,” the statement said.
“The situation across the Jammu region remained normal and peaceful. However, curfew was imposed in main town Kishtwar as a precautionary measure this morning,” the statement added.
With inputs from Bilal Habib and Owais Farooqi