Prevented from going to Anantnag, protests erupt in Srinagar and south Kashmir
Srinagar: Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Friday was prevented from visiting south Kashmir’s Anantnag town to address a rally. Geelani, along with a dozen of his party colleagues, was arrested from his Hyderpora residence-cum-office and taken to Humhama police station. Following the arrest, violent clashes occurred in parts of Srinagar and south Kashmir as protesters clashed with government forces.
From early morning, a large number of heavily armed police and CRPF personnel had laid siege to Geelani’s Hyderpora residence. Police officials deployed on the street leading to Geelani’s house were seen questioning pedestrians besides restricting media access.
Government forces sealed the house and office and no one was allowed to enter or leave. “We have been given clear-cut orders not to allow Geelani to visit Anantnag,” a senior police officer deployed outside Geelani’s house said. “He has become a source of tension for us,” he added.
At around 11 AM, Geelani along with his party men appeared at the gates of his house and tried to break the cordon and head towards Anantnag. However, the police arrested him before he could step out.
Interestingly, less than a week ago, DGP K Rajendra had said that Geelani was “a free man” unless he disturbs the law and order situation. “Geelani is free to offer Friday prayers, but the only thing is that whenever he goes out from his residence for prayers, the stone pelting starts there (sic),” Rajendra had said. Hurriyat (G) had responded by saying they would test the claims of the police after they announced Geelani would offer Friday prayers in Anantnag and then also address a public gathering.
“The police claim proved to be a blatant lie. We have exposed them. It has been proven that the ‘battle of ideas’ is a hollow slogan,” Hurriyat (G) spokesman Ayaz Akbar said. “Geelani’s popularity among the people was enough to scare the state. We have challenged the police and the state it represents. When they don’t allow Geelani to move, we win the challenge. A man who represents the legitimate struggle based on truth won while those representing the sham rule were defeated,” Akbar added. He also termed the government’s actions “sheer hooliganism and interference in religious affairs”.
The Hurriyat leaders and activists who were arrested on the occasion also included Raja Mehraj-ud-din, Mohammad Yousuf Mujahid, Hakeem Abdul Rasheed, Mohammad Yousuf Naqash, Ghulam Mohammad Khan Sopori, Bashir Ahmad Andrabi, Mohammad Ashraf Laya, Syed Imtiyaz Hyder, Shakir Ahmad Mir, Syed Zahoor-ul-Haq Geelani, Mushtaq Ahmad Shaikh, Umar Adil Dar, Mukhtar Ahmad Laway, Mohammad Ramzan Khan, Sajad Ahmad Sofi, Abdul Rasheed Lone and Javaid Ahmad Gazi.
Later, the other Hurriyat leaders who took part in the protest demonstration at Hyderpora against Geelani’s arrest included Altaf Ahmad Shah, Advocate Mohammad Shafi Reshi, Peer Saifullah, Abdul Hameed Magray, Mohammad Shafi Lone, Nisar Hussain Rather, Bilal Ahmad Siddiqi, Mohammad Sayed, Zamrooda Habib, Yasmeen Raja and Ghulam Mustafa.
The Hurriyat (G) chief has been under arrest since his arrival from New Delhi on April 15. On June 14, the authorities also disallowed the Hurriyat (G) seminar, ‘How to Resist the Indian State Fascism’.
The party spokesman appealed to Amnesty International and other human rights organisations to take notice of the “unjust house detention process of the Kashmiri pro-freedom leader and use their influence in ending his illegal and undemocratic imprisonment”.
Protests in Srinagar, south Kashmir
Soon after Friday prayers, violent protests broke out in parts of the old city between youth and government forces. The former, raising pro-freedom and pro-Pakistan slogans, threw rocks on the police and CRPF personnel who responded by firing tear gas shells. The pitched battles continued till late evening.
In fact, a nursing mother and her 10-day old baby had a “miraculous escape” after a teargas shell fired by government forces landed inside a residential house in Nowhatta area on Friday afternoon. According to reports, Ghulam Qadir Khan of Syed Pora, Nowhatta, said that while forces were firing teargas shells to disperse protesters one of the shells landed in the room where his daughter and her baby were resting. “The room filled with teargas smoke and they faced tremendous problems,” he said. He also said he later shifted the mother and baby to another locality.
Protests were also seen in Anantnag town soon after Friday prayers as people marched from the Bus stand and Sherbagh areas and converged at Lal Chowk. Local Hurriyat (G) leaders addressed the gathering following which the police arrested them, Hurriyat (G) district president Mir Hafizullah was among those arrested.
Angry over the arrests, the people raised pro-freedom and pro-Geelani slogans after which the police fired teargas canisters to disperse them. The protesters, especially youth, responded by pelting stones at government forces. Several people reportedly suffered minor injuries during the clashes which also spread to other localities, including Janglat Mandi, Mattan Chowk, Achabal Adda and other old town areas. Pitched battles continued till late evening here as well.