Kashmir on edge over teenager’s killing by forces

Kashmir on edge over teenager’s killing by forces

Srinagar: Thousands of people Saturday participated in the funeral prayers of a teenager who was shot dead on Friday by government forces in Naidkhai town of Bandipora district, even as violent protests continued for the second consecutive day despite a clampdown in parts of north Kashmir and Srinagar amid fears of widespread protests over the killing.
18-year-old Farhat Ahmad Dar, son of Ghulam Rasool Dar, of Shah Gund, Hajin was shot in the chest by the forces near the Higher Secondary School, Naidkhai when the area was witnessing protests over the alleged highhandedness of the forces. A Class 12 student, Farhat succumbed to his injuries on way to the Public Health Centre (PHC) Pattan. His death intensified protests in the area leaving at least seven more people injured. In the damage control mode, the district authorities announced a probe and pledged strict action against the guilty.
In the wee hours Saturday, hundreds of CRPF troopers and policemen were deployed across Bandipora district to enforce undeclared curfew and to thwart any protests by the people against the killing of the teenager. Donning riot gear and carrying automatic rifles, forces had laid a siege in sensitive towns of Hajin, Naidkhai, Sumbal and Bandipora, restricting the movement of civilians.
In Naidkhai, the curbs were intense. The forces were on their toes to scuttle anti-India demonstrations in the area. The forces had also erected barricades and laid spools of razor wire to confine the residents indoors. At many places, armoured vehicles were put on standby to tackle any law and order situation.
However, despite heightened security, thousands of people from Naidkhai, Hajin, and other neighbourhood areas assembled in Shah Gund locality and staged demonstrations against what they called ‘cold blooded’ murder of the teenager, eyewitnesses said. While women were seen wailing and beating their chest to mourn the killing of the teenager, the youth chanted anti-India, pro-freedom and pro-Islam slogans. Later, the body of the teenager was carried in a procession to his ancestral graveyard. The funeral procession swelled as people from Sumbal, Markundal, Pushwari, Safapora, Buch and other areas also joined it despite heavy rains. Hundreds of women also followed the funeral procession and bid tearful adieu to Farhat. Amid vociferous pro-azadi and anti-India sloganeering, Farhat was laid to rest.
“Farhat was not a stone thrower as police claims. The truth is that he was returning home after offering prayers at a Naidkhai masjid when CRPF men and cops chased him before shooting him dead in cold blood,” a relative of the slain boy told Kashmir Reader. He said Farhat was the only son of his parents.
Meanwhile, in the afternoon, a procession was taken out by the residents of Saderkoot. Shouting slogans, the people tried to march towards Shah Gund to express solidarity with the boy’s family. However, when the procession reached near Hajin bridge, CRPF and police intercepted them. “The youth leading the procession offered stiff and tried to break the cordon. However, the forces used batons to foil their plan. Later, the youth pelted upon the forces with stones while the former burst teargas canisters to disperse them. The clashes continued for several hours,” Bilal Ahmad, an eyewitness said.
Violent protests were also reported from Sonawari area of the district. However, no one was reported to be hurt.
In the neighbouring Baramulla district, CRPF troopers and police had blocked four of the five vital bridges—Cement Bridge, Azad Gunj Bridge, Khanpora Bridge and SRTC foot Bridges— in the wee hours Saturday to prevent the people of Old Town from staging protests. However, people in singles were allowed to move through Gulnar Park Bridge.
As the day progressed, groups of youth assembled at Cement Bridge and Khanpora Bridge and attacked the forces deployment with stones. The clashes continued till late evening. However, no one was reported to be injured in the clashes.
Restrictions were also imposed in the volatile Palhallan town where violent clashes broke out Friday evening after the news of Farhat’s killing spread. Similar reports were also received from Sopore town and Pattan. At Pattan, minor clashes broke out when some boys hurled stones at the CRPF men and cops near the police station.
In the frontier Kupwara district, heavy deployment of troopers and police were made amid apprehensions of protests, while in Handwara town, a complete shutdown was observed to mourn the death of the teenager.
Clashes also erupted in Tral town of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, where a complete shutdown was observed to protest the boy’s killing. A man identified as Juma Sheikh was injured after he was hit by a stone during the clashes between the youth and the forces.
Here in Srinagar, the capital city, normal life came to a standstill due to restrictions imposed by the authorities in wake of the Naidkhai teenager’s killing. Curbs were imposed on civilian movement in Nowhatta, Gojwara, Rajouri Kadal, Saraf Kadal, Kawdara, Maharaj Gunj, Safa Kadal and other areas of the old city.
“The forces didn’t allow the people to venture out of their homes. They enforced strict curfew in the morning. However, in the second half of the day, some people were allowed to move only after their credentials were verified by the troopers,” Basharat Ahmad, a resident of Nowhatta told Kashmir Reader.
All shops, offices, business establishments and petrol pumps remained closed here while the public traffic was off the roads. Government offices and banks also witnessed a thin attendance as most of the marketplaces including the busy Residency Road, Regal Chowk, and Lal Chowk presented a deserted look.
Meanwhile, a police spokesman in a handout said the situation remained peaceful throughout the Valley barring a few stray stone pelting incidents in Hajin and Cement Bridge in the twin districts of Bandipora and Baramulla. “There were no reports of injury to anyone, till last reports came in,” the handout read.—With Mushtaq Ahmad in Baramulla and Azim Jan in Bandipora