Srinagar: Life remained crippled in Srinagar and other major towns of the Kashmir Valley for the third consecutive day Tuesday due to state imposed curbs 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, who were hanged and buried in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail in February 1984, and 2013, respectively.
Like Sunday, thousands of paramilitary CRPF troops and policemen armed with sophisticated weapons and riot gear guarded the deserted streets, lanes and by lanes of this summer capital of the state and enforced curbs on the movement of people on the 30th anniversary of JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat who was hanged on this day.
At most places, troops and police had blocked roads and important intersections with razor wire. Forces had also blocked many roads leading to sensitive areas with the armoured vehicles, eyewitnesses and reports said.
Maisuma locality in the uptown Srinagar, which houses the headquarters of JKLF, was placed under a heavy siege to prevent pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations on the anniversary of the JKLF founder. Around half a dozen JKLF activists were detained by police when they defied restrictions and tried to hold pro-freedom demonstrations.
In the old city, curfews-like restrictions were enforced to prevent pro-freedom anti-India demonstrations. At Nowhatta and its adjoining areas, hundreds of paramilitary personnel and police restricted the movement of people. Restrictions were also imposed in other areas of the city as well, reports said.
Despite curbs, clashes broke out late evening in many parts of the downtown including Rajouri Kadal, Soura, Nowshera and Gojwara when groups of youth came out on roads and pelted stones at CRPF troopers and cops who were returning to their camps. The forces personnel burst teargas canisters to disperse the youth. The clashes continued till late evening.
At Kawdara, youth pelted stones at the personnel of CRPF’s 161 battalion. The troopers responded with tear smoke shells.
Protests and clashes were also reported from the three districts of north Kashmir, where tough curbs remained in place for the third straight day.
Reports from Baramulla said that a contingent of CRPF men and cops appeared in the town early morning and sealed all the five bridges-Cement Bridge, Azad Gunj Bridge, and Khanpora Bridge, Gulnar Park Bridge and SRTC Foot Bridge—to prevent the people from holding protests. The forces laid spools of concertina wires on all the bridges cutting off the volatile old town with rest of the district. However, minor clashes broke out late evening at Khanpora and Azad Gunj Bridge when the deployment was retreating.
In the neighbouring Bandipora district, CRPF and police lobbed several teargas canisters to quell pro-freedom demonstrations in Papchan, Sumbal and main town. In Hajin, violent clashes erupted after two youth identified as Hilal Wani and Asif Hameed were detained by the forces from the main market. The forces lobbed tear smoke shells after angry youth, protesting the arrests, hurled rocks upon them.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of people assembled at Trehgam, the native village of JKLF founder in frontier Kupwara district and staged peaceful protests demanding the mortal remains of the executed Kashmiri leader. The protesters also offered special prayers before dispersing peacefully.
Reports of protests and clashes have also been received from Shopian and Pulwama towns of south Kashmir.
At least three youth were arrested after groups of youth engaged forces in pitched battles in main town Pulwama.
The pro-freedom camp 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 Maqbool Bhat.
Most of senior pro-freedom leaders, including JKLF chairman Yasin Malik, and Shabir Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Khan and Mushtaq-ul-Islam (of Hurriyat Conference JK) and others, are in preventive custody for the past three days while Hurriyat (G) chief Syed Ali Geelani were placed under house arrest on his return from New Delhi on February 8.—With inputs from Mushtaq Ahmed in Baramulla