Srinagar: At least 22 people, including 10 paramilitary troopers and policemen, were injured Monday in violent clashes in Baramulla district, even as a complete shutdown was observed across the Valley in response to the call given by Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani over the detention of several pro-freedom leaders and youth during anti-election campaigning.
In this summer capital of the state, shops, offices, commercial establishments, educational institutes and petrol pumps remained closed while public traffic was off the roads, eyewitnesses said. Government offices and banks also witnessed thin attendance.
A contingent of CRPF troopers and policemen were deployed at sensitive places in the city to thwart any possible protests by the people. Donning riot gear and carrying automatic rifles, forces maintained tight vigil on the movement of the civilians.
Similar security arrangements were put in place at Khanyar, Nowhatta, Gojwara, Naid Kadal, Kawdara, Safa Kadal, Bohri Kadal, Rajouri Kadal, Rainawari and other areas of the downtown city.
However, despite heightened security, scores of masked youth converged at the congested Maisuma locality in the heart of the city and attacked CRPF troopers camped in the nearby Akhara building with stones. The forces deployed in advance resorted to cane charge to disperse the protesters. The clashes continued for over an hour. However, no one was reported to be injured.
Reports of shutdown and clashes have also been received from Baramulla and Bandipora districts of north Kashmir.
Eyewitnesses told Kashmir Reader that early morning, a contingent of CRPF men and cops appeared in Baramulla town and sealed three of the five bridges—Cement Bridge, Khanpora Bridge, and Gulnar Park Bridge—to prevent 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.
The curbs, however, angered the old town residents, especially the youth, who came out in large number and staged pro-freedom demonstrations. Besides chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, angry protesters hurled rocks and bricks on the forces triggering clashes.
“The forces burst numerous teargas canisters to the stone pelting attacks. The Cement Bridge presented the look of a battleground. In the day long clashes at least 15 people, including five troopers and cops sustained injuries,” Tariq Ahmad, an eyewitness told Kashmir Reader.
He said the fierce stone pelting attacks by the youth prompted the cops to withdraw from the bridges.
Five forces personnel and equal number of civilians were injured in clashes in Sopore town of the district. Groups of youth appeared at Main Chowk, Sopore and engaged the forces in ding-dong battles, reports said. While the youth hurled rocks at the forces, the latter used batons and fired teargas canisters to disperse the stone pelters. The clashes continued for several hours leaving at least 10 people, including five forces personnel injured. A police vehicle also turned turtle near Jamia Masjid Sopore after coming under attack by stone pelters.
In the volatile Palhallan town, where forces imposed curbs to restrict the movement of civilians, clashes broke out late evening when the forces were returning to their camps. The forces tossed numerous teargas canisters to disperse stone pelting youth who emerged from the town and engaged the forces in pitched battles along the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway. At least two people received injuries in the clashes. One of the injured identified as Umar Ashraf of Shalpora received pellet gun injuries. He was instantly removed to hospital for treatment.
Meanwhile, violent protests amidst a complete shutdown were also reported from the neighbouring Bandipora district.
According to reports, scores of youth took to streets at Gulshan Chowk in the main town Bandipora and staged pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations. Besides chanting slogans in favour of freedom from India, the protesters hurled rocks and stones on the forces triggering fierce clashes. Forces fired tear smoke shells after they failed to disperse protesters with cane charge. The clashes continued till late evening.
Reports of clashes were also received from Murran Chowk in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, even as a partial shutdown was observed in the neighbouring districts of Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag.
Meanwhile, a police spokesman in a handout here said that situation remained normal throughout the Valley barring isolated stone pelting incidents at Gulshan Chowk Bandipora and Azad Gunj Baramulla. “However, no one was hurt, till reports last came in,” the spokesman said.—With inputs from Mushtaq Ahmad in Baramulla and Azim Jan in Bandipora