Govt locks Jamia Masjid on Friday prayers, more than a dozen youth arrested in Anantnag
Srinagar/Anantnag: At least 25 persons were injured, including minors, during clashes following Friday prayers in Srinagar, Anantnag and Pulwama districts.
Authorities did not allow Friday congregational prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid at Nowhatta in Srinagar for the third consecutive week.
Curfew-like restrictions remained imposed in parts of the old city and in Maisuma area of Srinagar to prevent people from staging protests during the day.
Intense clashes between youth and government forces erupted in Soura area of Srinagar.
Soon after the Friday prayers, a group of youth took to the streets in Soura to stage pro-freedom protests.
To disperse the protesting youth, a huge contingent of police and paramilitary CRPF resorted to heavy teargas shelling to chase away the protestors.
Youths also pelted forces with stones, triggering intense clashes in the area.
Forces also fired pellets at the protestors resulting in pellet injuries to around 15 persons. “Twenty persons were injured during the clashes including 15 who sustained pellet injuries. One of them was hit in the eye during the clashes which continued till late evening,” said eyewitnesses.
Clashes between youth and forces also erupted in Habba Kadal area of Srinagar where forces fired dozens of teargas shells to disperse the stone-pelting youth who hit the streets post-Friday prayers.
The restrictions remained imposed in areas falling under seven police stations – Khanyar, Nowhatta, Rainawari, MR Gunj, Safakadal, Maisuma and Kralkhud – to curb free public movement in these areas.
However, an official said that restrictions were imposed as precautionary measures to maintain law and order in Srinagar.
Forces in strength remained deployed in restriction-bound areas of Srinagar all through the day. The forces closed roads with concertina wires and erected blockades at various points including Khanyar, Nawab Bazaar, Gojwara, Nowhatta, Rainawari and other areas.
Authorities also sealed all roads, lanes and bylanes leading to the Jamia Masjid where congregational prayers were not allowed for the third consecutive week on Friday.
“We have been barred from offering the Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid since Jumma-tul-Vida (the last Friday of Ramadhan). It is sheer interference in our religious affairs,” locals of Nowhatta said.
The post-Friday congregational prayer clashes in Anantnag town intensified later in the evening as police detained more than a dozen youth – allegedly involved in stone throwing – from the town’s Jama Masjid.
At least three people, two of them minors, were injured during the clashes. They were treated at Anantnag district hospital and were stable.
Clashes erupted in Reshi Bazar, Sherbagh, Mattan Chowk and some adjoining localities of the main town soon after the Friday prayers were concluded.
Dozens of youth took to the streets and started throwing stones at government forces deployed in the area, forcing closure of shops in these localities.
To try and quell the stone pelting, the forces used tear-smoke shells and pellet guns.
The youth however kept regrouping, and the clashes continued for more than a couple of hours, after which the police barged into at least two mosques, including the Jama Masjid.
The forces reportedly entered the Jama Masjid, located in Reshi Bazar, and Rehat Dedi Masjid in Lal Chowk area of the town.
“At least 17 youth were arrested from these two masjids and whisked away in police vehicles,” a local source said.
Among the arrested minors is Hurriyat leader Mukhtar Waza’s son Reyan Mukhtar.
Locals alleged that forces also vandalized the masjids.
There were also rumours of serious injuries to a youth whom government forces allegedly threw from the roof of the Jama Masjid, Hamam.
The news could not however be ascertained, and no such injured person was brought to Anantnag district hospital.
The arrests and the rumour of the youth’s injury intensified the clashes that later spread to other parts of the town, including Lal Chowk, Janglat Mandi and the DC office areas.
Clashes continued in the area while this report was being filed.
Anantnag SSP Altaf Khan confirmed the arrests.
He however refuted allegations that masjids were ransacked.
“These are baseless allegations, and so is the claim that a youth was thrown from the roof and is injured,” Khan told Kashmir Reader.
Meanwhile clashes were also reported from some parts of Pulwama following Friday prayers.
Clashes were reported from Chatpora, Murran Chown and Dangerpora area of Pulwama.
Clashes between protesters and forces also erupted in Hajin area of Bandipora district post-Friday prayers.
Protestors also hurled stones at the Army Goodwill School in Hajin.