Srinagar: A near-total shutdown was observed Sunday across the Kashmir Valley in response to the call by pro-freedom groups to mark the Martyrs’ Day in memory of the 22 Kashmiri Muslims who were killed by soldiers of autocratic Dogra regime outside Srinagar’s Central Jail on July 13, 1931. Meanwhile, authorities clamped curfew-like restrictions in many parts of old Srinagar while almost all pro-freedom leaders were either detained or put under house to prevent them from visiting the martyrs’ graveyard.
Since Saturday evening, hundreds of police and paramilitary CRPF men were out on the streets in downtown to enforce restrictions in the jurisdiction of five police stations of Nowhatta, Khanyar, Rainawari, MR Gunj and Safa Kadal.
Wearing full riot gear, the paramilitary men sealed all the entry points to the old city by erecting barricades and concertina wires. Barricades were also erected at the entrance of many narrow lanes to restrict the civilian movement.
The forces had also laid a siege around Nowhatta, where violent clashes broke out after on Saturday evening. The forces didn’t allow the locals to venture out of their houses. Forces had also sealed all roads, lanes and by lanes in Nowhatta and other adjoining areas with concertina wire, local residents told Kashmir Reader over phone.
On July 13, 1931, 22 Kashmiris were massacred by the forces of autocratic ruler Maharaja Hari Singh outside Srinagar’s Central Jail here. The victims were protesting against the prosecution of Abdul Qadeer, who had raised voice against the atrocities committed by the autocratic rulers on local Muslims. Every year, this day is officially observed as Martyrs’ Day.
The shrine of Naqshbandh Sahab, where the martyrs are buried, was turned into a garrison. All roads leading to the shrine were sealed with barricades and spools of razor wire, while the high raise buildings adjacent to the Martyrs’ graveyard were occupied by the forces. Forces had also placed mobile bunkers at important crossings to prevent the march to the Martyrs’ graveyard called by pro-freedom groups.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his associates were the first to visit the Naqashband Sahib martyrs’ graveyard where they paid floral tributes to the martyrs of July 13, 1931.
Speaking on the occasion, Abdullah, according to an official spokesman, said the sacrifice of martyrs to free the society from autocracy and lay edifice for democracy and human dignity is one of the richest chapters of the history of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The best way to pay homage to the martyrs is to help create equitable and palatable environment for everyone to grow and develop in a democratic atmosphere”, he added.
Speaker, Legislative Assembly, Mubarak Gul, Minister for Finance, Abdul Rahim Rather, Minister for Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar and Minister for CAPD, Ch. Mohammad Ramzan and Minister for Law and Justice, Mir Saifullah were accompanying the Chief Minister.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and Member of Parliament, Tariq Hameed Karra and other party leaders also visited the martyrs’ graveyard. On the occasion, Karra flayed the government for imposing restrictions on the movement of people. Karra said the restrictions, hartal and imprisonment of pro-freedom leaders along with rest of the city is a “grim reminder of the treachery that National Conference practiced against the people of Kashmir, who had reposed their faith blindly in its leadership”.
Elsewhere in this summer capital and other parts of the Valley, shutdown called by both factions of Hurriyat Conference, JKLF, and Hurriyat Conference JK and supported by many organizations including Kashmir High Court Bar Association evoked near-total response, reports said.
All shops, private offices, petrol pumps, business establishments remained closed throughout the day, while public and private transport was also off on all the major roads and highways across the Valley.
Even as Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani remains under house arrest for past few months, chairman of Hurriyat (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who had called for march to Naqashband Sahib, was also placed under house arrest at Nigeen residence.
JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik, who was arrested on Friday morning, continued to remain under detention while Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) president Shabir Shah, National Front chairman Nayeem Khan, Hurriyat (M’s) Bilal Gani Lone and Shahid-ul-Islam, Salvation Movement’s Zaffar Akbar Bhat and Peoples Political Party chief Hilal Ahmad War were also confined to their respective houses by the police.
Hurriyat (G’s) senior leaders including Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, Ayaz Akbar, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Dr. Ghulam Mohammad Ganai and Raja Meraj-ud-Din were also placed under house arrest, reports said.
Meanwhile, soldiers of army 14 Rashtriya Rifles damaged houses and beat up some women in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.
Reports said soldiers barged into the houses in Greenland Colony of Ajar area in Bandipora while chasing a group of youth who had taken to streets to hold protest.
“The youth fought pitched battles with police and paramilitary forces, and when the forces started to leave the area the youth marched towards Kharpora Chowk that leads towards the army and CRPF camp.
“The soldiers forcibly into our houses and beat whosoever came in their way,” reports quoted local residents as saying.
A woman who received injuries in her head after she was forced against a wall was brought to Srinagar for treatment, reports added.
Here in Srinagar, clashes broke out between police and youth in several parts of downtown city in the evening.
Reports said groups of youth gathered in Nowhatta, Saraf Kadal and Khawaja Bazaar areas when the deployment of police and CRPF was leaving.
Chanting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, the youth pelted stones on the forces, sparking fierce clashes. The forces used dozens of teargas canisters to disperse the youth, reports said.