Srinagar: At least 14 people were injured in anti-India clashes across the Kashmir Valley on Thursday, even as authorities placed parts of Srinagar under strict curfew while rest of the Valley observed a complete shutdown called by pro-freedom groups against the killing of a youth by paramilitary troopers in downtown city on Wednesday evening.
Bashir Ahmad Bhat, 24, was killed while two others, including a woman, suffered injuries on Wednesday when CRPF troopers opened fire upon a group of anti-poll protesters in Nawa Kadal locality of old city here after the polling for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat ended. The killing set off violent protests prompting the officials to impose undeclared curfew across the old city.
A strict curfew was imposed in seven police stations of the old city including Maharaj Gunj, Khanyar, Rainawari, Nowhatta, Safa Kadal, Kralkhud, Lal Bazaar and Zadibal. Curfew-like restrictions were also imposed in Maisuma which houses the headquarters of pro-independence JKLF.
Since early Thursday morning, hundreds of CRPF troopers and policemen armed with sophisticated weapons and riot gear were deployed to thwart protests over the killing of the Nawa Kadal youth, reports and eyewitnesses said. Alert troopers guarded the deserted streets, lanes and by lanes of the old city and confined the residents indoors. All the roads leading to Khanyar, Nowhatta, Gojwara, Naid Kadal, Saraf Kadal, Hawal, Kawdara, Safa Kadal, Kawdara, Nawa Kadal and other localities of the downtown were sealed by forces with spools of concertina wire. At important crossings, forces had placed armoured vehicles to prevent the movement of vehicles.
Similar curbs were in place in uptown Maisuma. The adjoining Lal Chowk wore a deserted look as all offices, shops, petrol pumps, business establishments and educational institutions remained closed in response to the call by both factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF against the killing of the youth in Nawa Kadal.
However, clashes broke out late evening in many parts of the downtown and uptown Maisuma when groups of youth came out on roads and pelted stones upon CRPF troopers and cops, who were returning to their camps. The forces burst teargas canisters to disperse angry youth who hurled rocks and stones upon them from congested lanes and by lanes. The clashes continued till late evening. At least three people suffered minor injuries in the clashes. A youth identified as Umar Nazir was injured when he was hit by a stone near Maisuma.
“Forces went berserk after failing to chase away the protesting youth. In frustration, they hurled rocks on the residential houses. Windowpanes of several houses were damaged by the forces,” a caller identifying himself as Mohammad Saleem, a resident of Nawab Bazaar told Kashmir Reader.
Earlier in the day, clashes broke out between forces and the protesters in Narbal area of the city outskirts. Three people, including a couple hailing from Mumbai suffered minor injuries during the clashes. The injured couple has been identified as Lakshman and his wife Shallina Devi. Clashes were also reported from Bemina area of the city outskirts.
Protests and clashes over Nawa Kadal killing was also reported from Pampore town of the southern Pulwama district.
In north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, at least four people suffered minor injuries in the protests that broke out in the morning.
Reports said that a contingent of CRPF men and cops appeared in the town 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 over the Nawa Kadal killing. The forces laid spools of concertina wires on all the bridges cutting off the volatile old town with rest of the district.
However, as the day progressed, groups of youth converged at the bridges and fought pitched battles with the forces.
“Besides teargas canisters, forces also fired from pellet guns to break up pro-freedom demonstrators. However, defiant youth continued renewed assaults on them. In the clashes that continued till late evening, four people were injured,” Zahoor Ahmad, an eyewitness, said.
Clashes were also reported from Main Chowk Sopore, where two people suffered injuries in the ding-dong battles.
In the neighbouring Bandipora district, CRPF and police lobbed several teargas canisters to quell pro-freedom demonstrations in Gulshan Chowk, Papchan, Nowpora and other areas of the district. At least two people have reportedly suffered injuries in the clashes.
Meanwhile, a handout issued by police said the situation “remained normal throughout the Valley” barring isolated and minor stone pelting protests in Baramulla, Gulshan Chowk and Papchan areas of the neighbouring Bandipora district, Ompora in Budgam and Pampore in Pulwama district. “However, there are no reports of any injury to anybody so far,” the spokesman said.—With Mushtaq Ahmed in Baramulla