Srinagar: Amid the staccato buzz of the gunfire, a group of women gathered on the left bank of Jhelum River, just across the Entrepreneurship Development Institute building, the scene of the bloodiest gunfight between militants and government forces in the past more than a decade, singing “Qoam kay bohdooro, karyo goor gooro (the braveheart of the nation, let me sing you a lullaby).
From a distance, Public Address System of a mosque was playing songs extolling revolution and bravery, a reminiscent of the early 1990s, when such songs were played in mosques to drum up support for the anti-India rebellion.
It is difficult to tell whether the holed-up militants listened to wanwun (the folk song of women) or the songs blaring from mosque speakers, but the atmosphere was indicative of the people’s support for the militants who engaged the army for nearly 50 hours.
The authorities imposed curfew-like restrictions in the main saffron town to prevent anti-India protests and an imminent massive funeral procession for the trio.
While the encounter was raging, villages surrounding the site continuously erupted in protests, shouting pro-freedom slogans. Their attempt to move towards the encounter site was foiled by police.
Police had blocked the highway with barricades at several places from Panthachowk to Pampore. The otherwise busy highway was deserted as the traffic was diverted to alternate routes.
Although the authorities recently issued an advisory, asking people to stay away from encounter sites, where assembly of more than four people is already a punishable offence, people still came onto roads and protested.
This was the routine for the two days. The protests started from Frestabal village situated at a stone’s throw from the EDI building and soon moved to volatile Drangbal quarter.
People came in small numbers from Kakapora, Samboora, Meej, Konibal, Khrew, Ladhu, Chandhara, Andruso and other hamlets. Many protesters assembled at Sampora where they stayed for the day, protesting and sloganeering.
The Sampora villagers served Tehri (yellow turmeric rice) to their “guests” from other villages. The slogans would become louder each time the silence was broken by a burst of gunfire.
They shouted, ‘Jeeve Jeeve Pakistan (long live Pakistan), Sabeluna sabeluna, al jihad al jihad (the only way is striving), hum kya chahtya aazadi (we want freedom), Bharat ka aiwanon ko aag laga do (burn down Indian institutions).
The protesters faced stiff resistance from the police and paramilitaries as they attempted to proceed towards the encounter site. The protesters made last ditch effort to break the police barricades when the curtains appeared to be drawn on the encounter.
The people protesting on the river bank attempt to cross over to the encounter site in boats but were prevented by the police.
During the clashes that erupted after the bodies of the militants were taken to Uri, at least seven protesters, demanding the militants’ bodies, were wounded. Three of them were shifted to Srinagar for treatment.