Srinagar: At least four people were injured Friday in violent protests, as parts of this capital city were placed under curfew, while a complete shutdown was observed elsewhere in the Valley in response to the call given by pro-freedom groups against the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kashmir.
Reports said all shops, offices, commercial establishments, educational institutions and petrol pumps in this summer capital of the state remained closed while public traffic was off the roads. Government offices and banks also witnessed thin attendance.
A contingent of CRPF troopers and policemen were deployed in Maharaj Gunj, Khanyar, Rainawari, Nowhatta and Safa Kadal areas of Old City, where curfews-like restrictions were imposed since Thursday night to foil protests against Modi’s visit.
Donning riot gear and carrying automatic rifles, forces maintained tight vigil on the movement of the civilians. Besides blocking lanes, by lanes and streets of the downtown with barricades and spools of razor wire, the forces had also placed armoured vehicles at important crossings.
The historic Jamia Masjid was placed under siege by cops and paramilitary troopers. No prayers were offered at the grand mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan, leading to outrage among the residents. The police had also placed under house arrest Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and several other leaders of the conglomerate. The chairman of parallel Hurriyat faction, Syed Ali Geelani, was also placed under house arrest at his Hyderpora residence.
“The forces guarded the deserted streets of downtown and confined the residents indoors. They didn’t even allow us to offer congregational Friday prayers in this sacred month. It was only in the evening that the curbs were eased,” said Mohammad Waseem, a resident of Gojwara.
Curbs on public movement were also imposed in parts of uptown during the movement of Modi. Alert forces didn’t allow vehicles to ply along the army cantonment stretch till Modi landed and left the venue after addressing soldiers.
Shivpora, Batwara, Indra Nagar and other neighbourhood localities around the Badami Bagh Cantonment were placed under siege by the police and paramilitaries ahead of Modi’s arrival in the cantonment. The forces were also on their toes in Hyderpora, Humhama and Barzulla area of the uptown fearing protests on Modi visit.
Maisuma, which houses the headquarters of JKLF, was also sealed, and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik was arrested in the wee hours Friday by police.
However, despite stringent security measures, protests were reported from Chotta Bazaar, Karan Nagar and Maisuma areas. Scores of people after offering congregational Friday prayers took to streets and staged pro-freedom and anti-India protests. The protesters dispersed peacefully.
However, in Soura violent clashes broke out when groups of youth took to streets and staged anti-India demonstrations. Besides chanting slogans, the protesters also pelted stones and rocks on the forces. In retaliation, the forces used batons and fired teargas canisters to disperse them. The clashes continued for some time. No one was reported to be hurt.
Amidst a complete shutdown, clashes were also reported from parts of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
Reports said that heavy deployment of government forces was made in Baramulla town to thwart protests against Modi visit. The forces maintained tight vigil over the vital bridges and road links connecting the volatile old town with rest of the Valley. The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway was sealed from Nowshera to Kaman Post with barricades and razor wire.
Salamabad, where Modi had to inaugurate the power project, was under constant surveillance of Special Protection Group (SPG) commandoes, who were flown from Delhi. Army specially trained Para troopers were also maintaining tight vigil in the area. The PM’s plane that reached Uri around 3:50 pm was escorted by four army choppers.
Clashes, however, broke out in the restive Palhallan town after the congregational Friday prayers concluded. Scores of youth converged at Main Chowk, Palhallan and tried to block the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. However, the forces that were deployed in advance used batons to disperse them. The police action led to the outbreak of clashes.
“The youth fought pitched battles with the forces even as scores of teargas canisters were lobbed to disperse them. The clashes continued till late evening. Two people suffered injuries in the clashes,” reports said.
In Panzla area of Rafiabad, a peaceful procession was taken out by the youth after Friday prayers. However, the marchers resorted to stone pelting when intercepted by police.
In Sopore town, angry protesters attacked a CRPF picket located inside the State Bank of India.
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. Two people suffered injuries in the clashes. One of the youth identified as Shariq Ahmad, son of Muhammad Ashraf Bhat, suffered eye injury after being hit by a stone at Papchan. He was removed to Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital.
Protests and clashes against Modi’s visit were also reported from Kulgam, Pulwama and Anantnag districts of south Kashmir.
Scores of people after offering Friday prayers took out a procession from Jamia Masjid Anantnag. Chanting pro-freedom, pro-Islam and anti-India slogans, the protesters tried to march through the streets of the town. However, the cops intercepted them
“The youth offered stiff resistance and tried to break the cordon. This led to verbal dual between the youth and the cops. Later, forces burst teargas shells to break up anti-India protests,” reports said.
Violent protests were also reported from Qaimoh area of the neighbouring Kulgam district, where police used force to quell anti-India demonstrations.
In the sensitive Tral town of Pulwama district, angry protesters tried to attack a picket of 185 battalion CRPF at the Bus Stand. The forces lobbed teargas canisters after failing to disperse the youth with batons.
Clashes were also reported from Barsoo area of Ganderbal district. However, no one was reported to be hurt.
Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Abdul Gani Mir was quoted by a local news gathering agency as saying that the situation across the Valley remained normal with no untoward incident reported.