Srinagar: Violent protests broke out in many parts of the Kashmir Valley on Friday, even as a complete shutdown was observed in response to the call given by Hurriyat Conference (M) to protest the closure of infamous Pathribal fake encounter case by Army exonerating its officers.
Banks, shops, business establishments and petrol pumps remained closed in Srinagar and other major towns of the Valley while thin attendance was witnessed in government offices in response to the strike call, reports said. Skeletal transport plied on the otherwise busy roads and highways in this summer capital of the state.
The historic Lal Chowk, commercial hub of this capital city, and its adjacent areas wore a deserted look due to the shutdown. A posse of CRPF troopers and policemen armed with sophisticated weapons and riot gear guarded the deserted streets, lanes and by lanes of the uptown to foil any attempt of the people to stage anti-India demonstrations.
Tight security arrangements were also made in downtown city. However, despite stringent security measures, scores of people took out a protest rally from the historic Jamia Masjid after the Friday prayers. Chanting slogans like “We want freedom,” and “Go India, Go Back,” the youth were protesting against the closure of the Pathribal case by Army on January 23.
When the protest rally reached near Islamia School, Rajouri Kadal, CRPF and policemen intercepted them. This led to clashes. “CRPF and police used batons to disperse the stone pelting protesters. However, it didn’t help as the youth regrouped and continued assaults on the forces from the congested lanes and by lanes of Rajouri Kadal. Later, forces used teargas canisters to break up the demonstrations,” Mohammad Sultan, an eyewitness, told Kashmir Reader.
The clashes, he said, soon spread to Saraf, Kadal, Gojwara and other neighbouring localities. The clashes continued till late evening.
Violent clashes were also reported from other major towns and districts of the Valley.
According to reports, groups of youth after Friday prayers assembled at Gulshan Chowk in the main town Bandipora and staged pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations. Besides chanting slogans in favour of freedom from India, the protesters also hurled rocks and stones on the forces triggering fierce clashes. Forces fired pepper gas and used lathis to contain the protests that quickly spread to Ajas and other areas.
Protests were also reported from Papchan, Hajin and Sumbal areas of Bandipora district.
In Sopore town of the neighbouring Baramulla district, police fires scores of warning shots to disperse groups of youth who hurled stones and rocks on a police vehicle near Main Chowk.
In Baramulla, clashes erupted in the main town. Angry youth attacked the police station Baramulla and engaged the forces in pitched battles. Clashes also took place near general bus stand and Uri bus stand.
In Palhalan, where massive protests had erupted on Thursday after a youth was arrested, CRPF and police had imposed tough curbs confining residents indoors. However, after Friday prayers, groups of youth took to streets and staged pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations. The protesters hurled rocks and bricks on the forces. The clashes continued till late evening. However, no one was injured in the clashes when the last reports came in.
In south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, hundreds of people staged pro-freedom demonstrations in Pathribal, the native village of the five civilians, killed by Army in a fake encounter and dubbed as foreign militants on March 25, 2000. The protesters led by the members of the local Auqaf also visited the graveyard and offered prayers for the slain men.
“The government should move beyond rhetoric. Issuing statements is not going to do justice with the families of the victims. We’ll wait and watch the events. In case the government fails, we’ll fight legal battle against the Army’s court martial verdict,” Ghulam Mohammad, a senior member of Auqaf, told the gathering at Brari Angan.
Violent protests were also reported from the neighbouring Pulwama district. According to reports, forces lobbed teargas canisters after they failed to disperse angry protesters with batons.
Meanwhile, reports of a complete shutdown in response to Hurriyat (M) call have also been received from other parts of the Valley.—With Mushtaq Ahmad in Baramulla and Azim Jan in Bandipora