Srinagar: At least six people sustained injuries Monday in fresh clashes that rocked parts of north Kashmir, even as clampdown enforced in Bandipora district after the killing of a teenager in firing by government forces continued on third consecutive day. Elsewhere in the Valley, life returned to normal after remaining affected for two days due to curbs imposed by government coupled with a shutdown called by pro-freedom groups against the teenager’s killing.
The 18-year-old Farhat Ahmad Dar, son of Ghulam Rasool Dar, of Shah Gund, Hajin was shot in the chest by the forces near Higher Secondary School Naidkhai on Friday last.
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 people injured. The district authorities announced a probe and assured strict action against the guilty.
Reports said undeclared curfew continued for the third consecutive day in major towns of Bandipora district. Wearing riot gear and carrying automatic rifles, the forces enforced strict curfew in Hajin, Naidkhai, Sumbal, Papchan, Saderkoot and Main Town and restrained people from venturing out of their houses. The forces had blocked all roads connecting the north Kashmir district with rest of the Valley with barricades and spools of razor wire. At sensitive places, armoured vehicles were used to restrict the movement of civilians.
However, undeterred by undeclared curfew and heavy deployment of the forces, scores of people, mainly youth took to streets at Hajin and fought pitched battles with the forces. Besides chanting slogans in favour of freedom from India, the youth pelted stones on the forces.
“Forces fired countless teargas canisters to break up pro-freedom demonstrations. The youth regrouped and continued renewed assaults on the forces. The clashes continued till late evening leaving at least six youth wounded,” eyewitnesses told Kashmir Reader.
They said the forces personnel went berserk after failing to quell the protests. “The troopers smashed windowpanes of dozens of residential houses. Even cars parked along the roads and streets were damaged by the forces in frustration,” the eyewitnesses said.
Protesters and troopers were also locked in ding-dong battles in Papchan, Naidkhai, Shah Gund and Main Town. Forces lobbed tear smoke shells after failing to contain the protests with batons.
Meanwhile, a group of videographers and photojournalists charged CRPF troopers with using them as human shields during protests in Hajin town. The troopers belonging to CRPF’s 45 battalion also thrashed and abused the journalists.
“The forces and youth were locked in pitched battles when we reached Hajin bridge. When we took our cameras to capture the clashes, the CRPF men pounced at us. They abused and thrashed us before using us as human shields against the stone pelting youth. It was a horrifying scene,” Sofi Ayaz, who works with New Delhi-based Times Now told Kashmir Reader.
“The forces taunted us. They deleted the video and pictures we had taken before reaching Hajin. They told us to run from the spot or die in the clashes,” he added.
Ayaz said the troopers also damaged his digital camera.
However, rejecting the allegations, CRPF spokesman said that orders have been passed to the troopers not to misbehave and interfere with the media persons.
“Our men didn’t misbehave with the journalists. They told the media persons to return because the area was witnessing intense clashes,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, protests also broke out in volatile Palhallan town of the neighbouring Baramulla where restrictions were imposed for the second running day to contain protests against Farhat’s killing.
Reports said that scores of youth chanting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans converged at Palhallan market along the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway when they found the town sealed off by the forces with razor wire. The angry youth hurled rocks and bricks on the forces to protest continuous curbs. In retaliation, forces lobbed teargas canisters to disperse the violent protesters. The clashes continued for several hours. However, no one was hurt.
Reports from south Kashmir said a complete shutdown was observed in Tral town of Pulwama to protest the arrest of three youths by police. Scores of people gathered at Bus Stand Tral and pelted stones on forces against the arrest of Fayaz Ahmad Sheikh, Aaqib Ahmad Dhobi and Yawar Ahmad Malik.
Meanwhile, life returned to normal in other towns and districts of the Valley after remaining paralyzed for two days in wake of curbs and shutdown over the killing of Naidkhai teenager. The Old City which was turned into a garrison since Saturday to foil protests, was bustling with business activities. Traffic also returned on all the major roads and highways of this summer capital.
A police spokesman in a statement said that said situation remained normal across the Valley barring stray incidents of stone pelting at Hajin and Naidkhai in Bandipora. “No one was hurt till last reports came in,” the spokesman said.—With Azim Jan in Bandipora and Mushtaq Ahmed in Baramulla