Riyaz ul Khaliq/Bilal Habib
Srinagar: The government on Friday lifted the siege around the historic Jamia Masjid in old Srinagar to allow congregational prayers after seven Fridays. However, the Valley’s chief priest, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was not allowed to lead the prayers.
The Jamia Masjid was sealed for seven consecutive Fridays to disallow possible protests in its vicinity in Nowhatta area.
The Mirwaiz addressed the gathering inside the Jamia Masjid by telephone. After his address, people held protests outside the mosque and clashes soon broke out between people and government forces. There was no report of any injury.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that the state government allowed prayers in Jamia Masjid only after traders issued a threat to go on indefinite strike if prayers were not allowed.
On Thursday, shopkeepers and other businessmen from the area had hit the streets and threatened to launch an agitation if they were not allowed to offer Friday prayers and conduct business in the Jamia market and adjoining areas, which had remained under restrictions, particularly on every Friday, for the past more than a month.
Although routine life resumed early this morning across Kashmir, protests and clashes between civilians and government forces were reported from several places.
Clashes were reported from Anantnag district where a militant and a civilian were killed during a midnight shoot-out.
In Bandipora district, clashes took place in Hajin town. Witnesses there said that hundreds of youth assembled near the government higher secondary school after Friday prayers and shouted anti-India and pro-freedom slogans. The youths took out a protest march and hurled stones on the army goodwill school located near a police station in the area. The government forces deployed near the school fired tear smoke shells to disperse the protesters. This led to clashes between the youths and government troops. No one was reported injured during the clashes.
In Pulwama district, protesters clashed with government forces at Tahab and Haal villages. Witnesses told Kashmir Reader that soon after the congregational prayers finished, scores of youths took to the streets at Tahab and Haal and hurled stones on government forces when they tried to stop their march. The forces used teargas shells and fired some shots in air at Tahab village to disperse the protesters.
In Baramulla district’s Sopore town, clashes erupted after people tried to march towards the main chowk from the town’s Jamia Masjid. The forces deployed in the area blocked the march by firing tear gas shells, which were retaliated to with stone-pelting by the youths.
A complete shutdown was observed for the fourth consecutive day on Friday in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district against the killing of top Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander Abu Dujana, his associate Arif Lelhari and two civilians.
Shops and other business establishments remained closed in Pulwama areas and in Tral area ever since Dujana was killed in a gunfight with government forces at Hakripora village in Kakapora tehsil.
People from different areas of Pulwama district continued to visit the residences of Duajana’s slain local aide, Arif Lehhari, and of the two civilians killed, Firdous Ahmad and 12th class student Akeel Ahmad, at their villages to express condolences with their families.
Namaz-e- Jinaza for those killed in the force’s recent actions in south Kashmir was offered in absentia in Pampmore, Tral and other area of south Kashmir after Friday prayers, sources said.
Hundreds of people offered funeral prayers in absentia for the slain militants and the civilians killed this week in south Kashmir.
Eyewitness told Kashmir Reader that hundreds of people also offered funeral prayers in absentia at Khanqah-e-Muola, Pampore, Khanqah-e-Faiz Panah, Tral, and Eidgah Dadsara, Tral.
Soon after the prayers, protesters marched towards Khrew Chowk, Pampore, and pelted stones on government forces at Khrew Chowk and Namblabal in Pampore town.