Pulwama remains shut for fourth day

Protests over killing of militants, civilian continue; tributes paid to the slain during Friday sermons
MUSHTAQ-UL-ISLAM
PULWAMA: Normal life remained crippled in Pulwama district for the fourth consecutive day on Friday with a complete shutdown in protest against the killing of a civilian and two militants by government forces on Tuesday. A 26-year old civilian, Bilal Ahmad Bhat, was killed when a patrolling party of the BSF fired on a group of youths who were protesting the killing of two local LeT militants, Showkat Ahmad Lone and Gulzar Ahmad Bhat, in a 20 hour-long encounter in Ratnipora area.
All shops, business establishments, private offices and educational institutions remained shut in all the major townships of the district,
including district headquarter Pulwama, Samboora, Kakapora, Newa and
Awantipora. Passenger and private traffic also remained off all roads for the fourth running day.
In Pulwama township, authorities had deployed forces in strength in the morning, but fearing protests afterFriday prayers withdrew the deployment nearly an hour beforeFriday sermons began in masjids in the town. However, soon after the completion of prayers, scores of youth organised themselves in groups and resorted to heavy stone-pelting at the police station. Though the police seemed to exercise restraint for some time, huge contingents of forces were then again deployed in the township.
Meanwhile Imams in all the masjids of the township paid rich tributes to the slain militants and the civilian during their sermons. They also demanded the immediate release of all the youths of the area who have been detained by the police on charges of stone-throwing.
Pulwama district has been on the boil since last Thursday, when a local LeT commander, Talib Ahmad Shah, was killed in an “encounter” with government forces in Kakapora.