Srinagar: Thousands of people protested Friday against the reprinting of the blasphamous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) by a French Satirical magazine, Charlie Habdo as normal life was affected in response to a shutdown called by several pro-freedom groups and the religious organizations.
The magazine has been attacked twice, in 2011 and early this month for publishing a number of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). In the recent attack twelve people including the editor, Charbonnier and several contributors. The attackers were later shot dead by the police.
Charlie Hebdo first appeared in 1970 as a successor to the Hara –Kiri magazine, which was banned for mocking the death of former French President Charles de Gaulle.
Hurriyat Conference (G), Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Bar Association and employees joint action commiteee (EJAC) had supported the shutdown call given by Mutahida Ulema-e- Ahli Sunnat (MUAS), a conglomerate of twenty- five religious Madaris (institutions). The authorities had placed several pro-freedom leaders, including Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, Shabir Ahmad Shah, Zaffar Akber Bhat under house arrest to foil the planned protests.
Reports said all shops, offices, commercial establishments in this summer capital remained closed while public trasport remained off the roads in wake of the shutdown. Government offices and banks also witnessed thin attendance.
The historic Lal Chowk, commercial hub of Srinagar city, and its adjacent areas wore a deserted look. A posse of CRPF and policemen armed with sophisticated weapons and riot gear guarded the deserted streets, lanes and by lanes of the uptown to foil any attempt of the people to stage anti-France demonstrations.
Besides barricading lanes, by-lanes and streets of Maisuma, the forces also placed armoured vehicles on standby near the Akhara Building to meet any eventuality.
Tight security arrangements were also made in most parts of the downtown, including Nowhatta. Carrying assault rifles, the forces maintained tight vigil to foil protests. However, despite stringent security measures, hundreds of youth after offering congregational Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid took out a procession. Chanting pro-Islam, pro-Azadi and anti-France, anti-India slogans, the protesters were intercepted by police near Khwaja Bazar.
“The youth turned furious when the police did not allow them to march further. They hurled rocks on the cops leading to clashes. The policemen fired numerous teargas canisters after failing to disperse angry protesters with batons,” Ejaz Ahmad Sofi, a witness told Kashmir Reader.
The clashes, he said, soon spread to the neighborhood localities of Malaratta, Gojwara, and Rajouri Kadal, as more and more youth hit the streets and joined the protesters.
“The clashes continued for several hours. Nowhatta presented look of a battleground as the cops and youth clashed. Many people were hurt,” Sofi added.
At Sekidafar, police resorted to mild lathi charge after a group of protesters torched an effigy of Charlie Hebdo cartoonist to give vent to their anger. A protest rally was also taken out this afternoon from Nawab Bazar after Friday prayers. The rally passed through different localities before it reached Karfali Mohalla, where protesters burnt the effigy of the French cartoonist.
A peaceful rally was also taken out by MUAS chairman, Maulana Riyaz ul Haq Noorabadi from the shrine of Syed Mansoor Sahab (RA) from Zaldagar. The rally dispersed peacefully at Karan Nagar, where two boys were reportedly detained on charges of throwing stones on vehilces earlier in the day. Peaceful protests against the french magazine were also reported from Batamaloo, Qamarwari, Chanpora, Rainawari, Soura, Nishat and other areas of the city.
Amidst a complete shutdown, reports of protests were also recieved from parts of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
According to reports hundreds of people, mostly youth took out a peaceful procession in Sopore town of the district to protest the reprinting of the blasphemous caricatures. Chanting “Islam zindabad” “Our Prophet (SAW) is our pride”, the protesters later dispersed peacefully.
Peaceful protests were also reported from the restive town of Palhalan, where forces were heavily deployed amid fears of violent clashes.
In the neighboring Bandipora district, Muslim League district president Mohammad Asadullah led a protest rally from Khankah-e-Moulla that passed different areas before concluding at main chowk Hajin. Another peaceful rally was taken out by the JKLF supporters. Both the rallies concluded peacefully. However, a group of youth, reports said, pelted stones at the army’s goodwill school Hajin damging several window panes.
Peaceful protests were also held at Gulshan Chowk, Bandipora, Ajas, Naid Khai and other areas of the district.
In Ganderbal district, hundreds of people took to streets after Friday prayers and staged demonstrations to denounce the blasphemous caricatures. The biggest demonstration, however, was witnessed at Main Market Gund along the Sonmarg highway. Peaceful protests were also held in Beehama area of the district.
Reports of peaceful protests amidst a shutdown were also recieved from Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian and Kulgam districts of south Kashmir.
In Reshi Bazar locaity of Anantnag town, protesters fought pitched battles with the cops when their march was intercepted. Muneeb Gul, a photjournalist was allegedly beaten up by cops while he was covering the clashes.
Earlier, Mirwaiz south Kashmir, Qazi Yasir led a strong procession from Hanfia Masjid that culminated at Lal Chowk peacefully.
In Pampore town of Pulwama district, hundreds of people protested against the reprinting of the blasphemous cartoons. The protesters carrying banners and placards that read, “Muhammad (PBUH) is our honour and we will die for Him”, denounced the move of the French magazine.
Peaceful protests were also reported from central Kashmir’s Budgam township. Hundreds of youth after congregational prayers took out a peaceful rally from Imam Bara. The rally passed through the main market, where it concluded peacefully, reports said.