Srinagar: Violent protests continued in many parts of Kashmir Valley for third consecutive day Friday against the killing of a youth by CRPF troopers in downtown Srinagar, even as curfew remained in place in parts of this capital city, while a shutdown was observed in other major towns of the Valley.
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 besides announcing a probe.
Like Thursday, hundreds of troopers and policemen carrying assault rifles and riot gear enforced strict curfew in seven police stations of the old city including Maharaj Gunj, Khanyar, Rainawari, Nowhatta, Safa Kadal, Kralkhud, Lal Bazaar and Zadibal, reports and eyewitnesses said.
Curfew-like restrictions were also imposed in uptown Maisuma fearing protests against the Nawa Kadal killing. The adjoining Lal Chowk wore a deserted look as all offices, shops, petrol pumps, business establishments and educational institutions remained closed, while public transport remained off the roads.
In Nowhatta, the stronghold of Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, police and paramilitary troopers were on their toes to scuttle anti-India demonstrations. The forces had placed most of the downtown localities under siege with barricades and spools of razor wire. Many lanes and by lanes were also choked by forces to confine the residents indoors. At some places, armoured vehicles were put on standby to tackle any law and order situation. Due to curbs, no congregational prayers were offered at the historic Jamia Masjid.
However, despite stringent security, measures, clashes broke out between protesters and forces in several parts of the old city and uptown.
In Hyderpora, groups of youth appeared on the Srinagar airport road and staged pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations. The protesters hurled stones at the cops who were deployed in advance. The cops swung into action and dispersed the protesters with batons. The cops also arrested a youth on charges of stone throwing. Minor clashes were reported from Padshahi Bagh as well.
Clashes also erupted in Nowhatta, Khawaja Bazaar, Malaratta, Gojwara, Bahauddin Sahab, Nawab Bazaar, Nowshera, Soura, Gojwara and other areas of the old city when the deployments were returning to their camps on Friday evening after enforcing strict curfew in the day. At least three youth suffered minor injuries in the clashes. Among them, a youth identified as Imran Ahmad Bhat received pellet injuries in the clashes at Saraf Kadal. He was removed to SMHS Hospital for treatment.
The residents of several localities of old city alleged that the forces went berserk after failing to chase away protesters. The forces damaged windowpanes of several houses and wind screens of the cars parked on the roads, they said.
Meanwhile, violent protests against the Nawa Kadal killing broke out in twin districts Baramulla and Bandipora in north Kashmir.
Scores of youth after offering congregational Friday prayers converged at Khanpora bridge in Baramulla town and staged pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations, eyewitnesses said. Besides chanting slogans, the protesters also pelted stones and rocks at the CRPF and cops who were deployed in advance to scuttle any protests.
“Initially, the forces returned stones after coming under attack. However, as the youth intensified their attacks, the forces fired teargas canisters to disperse them. The clashes continued for several hours,” said Abdul Aziz, an eyewitness.
In the neighbouring Sopore town, two youth suffered minor injuries during clashes between the protesters and the forces near the main chowk.
In the volatile Palhalan town of the district, where authorities had imposed restrictions since morning, protests erupted when groups of youth assembled near the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and clashed with the forces.
“Forces used numerous tear smoke shells to control the stone pelting youth. However, the youth regrouped and continued pelting rocks on the forces. The ding-dong clashes continued till late evening,” Firdous Ahmad, a local resident told Kashmir Reader.
Reports from Bandipora said that scores of youth after offering congregational Friday prayers took to streets at Naidkhai, Hajin, Papchan, Gulshan Chowk and other places.
The people after offering Friday prayers and prayers in absentia for the slain Nawa Kadal youth tried to take out a protest rally in Naidkhai town of the district. However, the CRPF and police intercepted the procession. This led to intense clashes during which forces used batons and fired teargas canisters. At least two people received minor injuries in the clashes.
Clashes also broke out in main town, Bandipora against Bashir’s killing. The youth fought pitched battles with forces for several hours.
In the sensitive Hajin town, peaceful protests were held against the killing of Nawa Kadal youth and the continued arrest spree of the boys on charges of stone pelting.
The protesters alleged that police has ‘let loose a reign of terror’ in the town by conducting nocturnal raids to arrest the youth. “Police has terrorized the people of town. Last night only, police arrested an elderly man after failing to arrest his son. This is height of atrocities,” the residents said. they identified the detained man as Abdur Rashid Parray, father of Zubair Ahmad Parray. Besides, Ishfaq Ahmad of Paribal was also arrested on charges of stone pelting.
In Ganderbal, a tourist identified as Chanderkant Joshi was injured when the vehicle he was travelling in was caught in clashes between the protesters and the forces.
Violent protests were also reported from Qazigund town of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, where two people sustained injuries. One of the youth identified as Ejaz Ahmad Sheikh received five stitches in head after being hit by a stone during clashes.
Meanwhile, a handout issued by police said that situation remained normal throughout the Valley barring isolated stone pelting incidents in Gulshan Chowk and Naid Khai in Bandipora and Khanpora area of Baramulla districts.
“Miscreants pelted upon an ambulance at Sheikh Mohalla, Bandipora resulting in injuries to the ambulance driver Javed Ahmad Mir and damage to the ambulance,” the spokesman added.—With inputs from Mushtaq Ahmad in Baramulla