Srinagar: At least ten people, including four policemen, were injured on Monday in clashes as restrictions, coupled with a shutdown called by Hurriyat Conference factions and JKLF to demand the return of mortal remains of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat and Mohammad Afzal Guru, hit life across the Valley for the second consecutive day.
Scores of people took to streets in Deewan Bagh area of Baramulla town and staged pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations. Chanting slogans, the protesters tried to march towards the main town. However, government forces deployed in the area used batons and lobbed teargas canisters to quell the protests. In retaliation, youth pelted stones on the forces. At least five people, including a policeman, were injured in the clashes that continued till late evening.
Earlier, CRPF troopers and police sealed off all road links connecting old town Baramulla with the rest of the northern district. All the five vital bridges—Cement Bridge, Azad Gunj Bridge, Khanpora Bridge, and foot bridges of SRTC and Gulnar Park—were blocked to thwart any attempt of people to take to streets and hold demonstrations. However, as the day progressed, siege of Azad Gunj Bridge was lifted.
Violent protests were also reported from Seelu, Jamia Kadeem, Main Chowk and other parts of Sopore town, where forces were deployed in strength. At Bumai, eyewitnesses said, three people were arrested after minor stone pelting incidents.
Late night clashes also broke out in Palhalan area of Baramulla when groups of youth reportedly caught three policemen and beat them to pulp. The incident occurred when the CRPF and police deployments were returning to their camps.
“The forces used countless teargas canisters after the incident. Many youth also suffered minor injuries in the clashes,” reports said, adding over a dozen youth have been arrested from Baramulla district since Sunday evening on charges of stone pelting.
Clashes also rocked Hajin, Naidkhai, Papchan, Sumbal, Nadihal and Bandipora town. The forces burst tear smoke shells after they failed to disperse stone pelting youth with batons.
Reports of protests and clashes were also reported from Panzin area of Kangan in Ganderbal district. CRPF lobbed teargas canisters after their camp came under heavy stone pelting. However, no one was injured in the clashes.
In this summer capital of the state, restrictions continued for the second consecutive day. The curbs were more intense in Bohri Kadal, Rajouri Kadal, Nowhatta, Gojwara, Kawdara, Nawa Kadal, Safa Kadal, Chattabal, Nawab Bazaar, and other areas of downtown. Curfew was also strictly enforced in uptown Maisuma which houses the headquarters of JKLF. Thousands of paramilitary CRPF and policemen carrying riot gear and assault rifles manned the deserted lanes, by lanes and roads of the downtown and confined the residents indoors. Many roads and important crossings were also sealed by the forces with spools of concertina wire and road dividers.
However, violent clashes broke out in Nowhatta, Gojwara, Saraf Kadal, Nawab Bazaar, Malik Sahab, Fateh Kadal, Bahu-ud-Din Sahab and other areas of the downtown when the forces were returning to their camps on Monday evening. The forces used chilly grenades to keep the stone hurling youth at bay.
“Forces used chilly grenades to disperse some protesting boys. However, it caused much inconvenience to the residents, especially the elderly. We couldn’t even open the window fearing beating from the angry troopers,” Fayaz Ahmad, a resident of Bahu-ud-Din Sahab, told Kashmir Reader.
Late night clashes were also reported from Natipora and HMT. At Zainakote, angry youth engaged the troopers of CRPF 144 battalion in pitched battles. At least two people were reportedly injured in the clashes.
In south Kashmir’s Shopian township, scores of people took out a peaceful rally demanding the mortal remains of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat and Mohammad Afzal Guru. Carrying placards, banners and portraits, the people staged peaceful protests at Goal Chakri. Later, the protesters disperse peacefully.
Clashes, however, erupted when some youth pelted stones and bricks on the personnel of IRP 18 battalion at Gagran. The latter used teargas canisters to disperse the protesters. The clashes continue for some hours.
Protesters and forces also fought ding-dong battles in Samboora area of Pampore in Pulwama district. While youth hurled rocks on the forces, the latter resorted to baton charge and fired teargas canisters. At least seven youth were arrested during the clashes. Six of the arrested youth have been identified as Danish Lone, Danish Sheikh, Muhammad Ehsan, Muhammad Aqib, Ishfaq Ahmed and Mudasir Ahmed Kumhar.
Meanwhile, a police spokesman in a statement issued here said that barring stray stone pelting incident from Papchan, Bandipora, situation remained normal across the Valley.
A top official from the divisional administration said that restrictions will remain in place on Tuesday in different parts of the Valley to avoid any law and order situation.
“Restrictions will also continue in downtown and uptown Srinagar on Tuesday,” the official added.
The pro-freedom camp, including both factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF, had issued a call for a three-day shutdown beginning February 9 (marking first death anniversary of Afzal Guru) till February 11, the death anniversary of JKLF founder Mohammed Maqbool Bhat who was hanged and buried inside Tihar Jail 20 years ago.—With Mushtaq Ahmed in Baramulla and Azim Jan in Bandipora