Thousands participate in Hizb militants’ funerals

Srinagar: Amidst a complete shutdown, thousands of people Friday participated in funeral prayers of two Hizbul Mujahideen militants who were slain in a fierce encounter with government forces in Shopian district of south Kashmir Thursday.
Abid Rather of Vehil and Arshad Sheikh of Haripora were killed while another militant managed to flee in a fierce four-hour gunbattle with teams of Special Operation Group (SOG) of police and Army’s 44 RR in Pinjoora area of Shopian. Their killings had set off violent anti-India protests in the area. At least six protesters suffered injuries in forces action.
Thousands of people from Haripora, Imam Sahab and its adjoining villages held pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations when the body of Arshid was brought to the village for funeral prayers, reports and eyewitnesses Friday said.
While women were seen beating their chest to mourn the killing of Arshid, angry youth chanted pro-freedom, pro-militant and anti-India slogans. Later, the body of the slain militant was carried in a procession to his ancestral graveyard. His funeral prayers also drew crowds from Deor, Nagbal, Pehlipora, Pinjoora, Gugloora and other neighbourhood villages. Amid tears and sobs, Arshid was lest to rest.
Earlier, Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman, Syed Ali Geelani addressed the mourners over telephone from Srinagar and reiterated his call for poll boycott. Geelani blamed New Delhi for misleading the international community by projecting elections in Jammu and Kashmir as a referendum in their favour.
“The best tribute to the martyrs is to take the ongoing freedom struggle to its logical conclusion. Don’t get carried away with the fake slogans and false promises of pro-India politicians who are agents of India in Kashmir,” Geelani, who is under house arrest, told the mourners.
According to the locals, Arshid belonged to a well-off family. His father is a businessman and has properties in Srinagar and New Delhi. “Wealth never attracted him. He was very religious. After passing Class 12, he joined militant ranks last year. He would always urge his friends to stand up against oppression and injustice,” a local insisting not to be named told Kashmir Reader.
Like Haripora, surcharged atmosphere was also witnessed in Vehil, the native village of another slain militant Abid Rather. Heart wrenching scenes were witnessed as the relatives and neighbours broke into tears when Abid’s body reached the village on Friday morning. Amid vociferous sloganeering, he was laid to rest at ancestral graveyard.
District authorities had deployed contingent of CRPF troopers and policemen in volatile Gagran, Bongam, Memendher, Main Chowk, Alialpora, Bonabazar, Saidpora, Hospital Road, DC office, and other areas of the main town to scuttle pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations. Carrying assault rifles and riot gear, the forces maintained strict vigil to thwart post-Friday prayers protest, the eyewitnesses said.
However, despite stringent security, violent clashes broke out in Main Town when groups of youth after Friday prayers. They clashed with CRPF troopers and police and also stoned court complex.
“CRPF and police burst teargas canisters after they failed to quell pro-freedom demonstrators with batons. The clashes converted Court Road and Alialpora into a battleground,” Mushtaq Ahmad, an eyewitness told Kashmir Reader.
Earlier in the day, a complete shutdown was observed in Main Town, Pinjoora, Pehlipora, Gugloora, Vehil, Imam Sahab and other areas of the district to mourn the killing of the Hizb members. All shops, offices, business establishments and other institutions remained closed while public transport was off the roads.