Kashmir observes Black Day

Lights shut, black flags raised in protest; Kupwara man succumbs at SMHS, death toll reaches 47; shutdown in Chenab valley, protest in Gurez against Zee News
Srinagar: The 47th civilian death from government action occurred on Wednesday at SMHS hospital, of 51-year-old Ghulam Mohammad Mir of Khumryal village in Kupwara district. He was on ventilator for the past three days. He was brought to SMHS on Friday with injuries to his head in near-dead condition. The injuries were sustained from ‘physical assault’ during clashes with government forces that occurred last Friday in the nearby Lolab area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.
Medical Superintendent of SMHS Nazir Chowdhary told Kashmir Reader that Mir was admitted to hospital on Friday with injuries in his head. Chowdhary said he was unaware of the cause of the injury, but medical reports of the deceased say that he was injured due to ‘physical assault’.
Principal of Government Medical College Srinagar Dr Kaiser Ahmad said that Mir had injuries to his brain from physical assault. He was almost dead when he was admitted to SMHS hospital, Dr Ahmad said.
“He was on ventilator for three days and yesterday (Tuesday) we gave up hope of any chances of his recovery. Today (Wednesday) his heart showed some chance of recovery but during the afternoon, he succumbed,” Dr Ahmad said.
Heavy clashes erupted between forces and youth as soon as the body of Mir reached his native village in border district Kupwara.
On Wednesday, the Kashmir valley observed ‘Black Day’ in response to a call issued by pro-freedom leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik. A complete shutdown was observed in all districts and lights were switched off in the late evening, with black flags raised in protest.
Srinagar descended into darkness after people switched off their lights and pro-freedom songs were played from masjid loudspeakers. People came out on the roads in downtown and civil lines areas and raised anti-India, pro-freedom slogans.  Vehicles were driven without headlights to mark the Black Day.
In south Kashmir, people raised black flags at several places and youths clashed with forces in Anantnag district in some areas. People in the villages put up black flags on their homes, shops, and other structures. In many areas people took out pro-freedom processions carrying black flags. The flags read ‘Black Day’ and ‘Youm-i-Siya’. In the towns, black flags were seen on vehicles that were carrying relief after the curfew was relaxed in the evening. A complete blackout was observed in Anantnag when people switching off their lights for nearly an hour in the evening darkness. A huge pro-freedom procession was also taken out from Reshi Bazar which marched through the town.
In the chief minister’s hometown Bijbehara, youths used the public address systems of mosques to ask people to switch off all lights.
Reports of a similar blackout were received from Shopian, Quimoo, Pulwama and other townships. A resident of Shopian wrote on Facebook: “Lights have been switched off here. It is a complete blackout in our homes. Masjids are reverberating with Azadi slogans.”
Reports said that the whole of south Kashmir remained under siege with heavy deployment of forces.
During late-night clashes in Lassipora area of Pulwama on Tuesday, two people sustained injuries after the army intercepted a protest march and fired bullets in the air to scare protesters.
Youths clashed with government forces in Pampore and Natipora areas late on Tuesday night.
Reports said that intense clashes erupted in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district on Wednesday, with youths hurling stones at men in uniform and raising anti-India, pro-freedom slogans.
Locals of Gurez Valley and the traders’ federation there rubbished a Zee News report in which few youths interviewed by the channel’s reporters were shown as taking pro-India positions. People raised slogans against Zee News and decried its “biased reportage indented to trigger violence among local communities.” Youths also clashed with forces who responded with teargas shelling.
“The interview of a few men in an army camp at LoC proves no point. Gurez has always been hand-in-hand with the freedom struggle of Kashmir,” the president of the traders’ federation Mohammad Yousuf Para said.
He added, “Despite being a militarised zone, Gurez has witnessed complete shutdown during the past days. The insensitive reporting has tried to divert the attention from the on-going agitation and tried to trigger communal clashes in the district.”
The Black Day was observed in all ten districts of Kashmir amid strict curfew that remains in place for the 11th day. A complete shutdown of markets, public transport and hoisting of black flags, along with wearing of black bands around the forehead, was observed in all districts including Srinagar.
Pakistan has declared to observe July 20 as Black Day in solidarity with Kashmiris.
At several places in Srinagar, Ganderbal, Kupwara and Baramulla, minor clashes were reported between government forces and people.
A peaceful protest was held at Srinagar’s Soura chowk against the arrest of four youths, including a minor, on Tuesday. People demanded the immediate release of the arrested youth. Later, some youth pelted the deployed forces with stones.
Reports said that normal life remained crippled in almost all towns of Chenab valley, following a day-long bandh called for by the Anjuman Islamia Bhaderwah. Shops and other business establishments in Bhaderwah and adjoining areas remained closed.  The bandh was also observed in Kishtwar, Thatri, Bhalessa, Chatroo, Bhalla and Pranoo areas.
“We have appealed for peaceful bandh today (Wednesday) against the security forces and the collation government for their killing and torturing of innocent civilians in Kashmir,” said Farooq Ahmed Kichloo, Imam of the Jamia Masjid Kishtwar.
Reports have come of Hizbul Mujahidin posters appearing in Shopian town on Wednesday, asking people to “stick to the on-going freedom movement and observe the shutdown call given by pro-freedom leaders of Kashmir with heart and spirit.”
Phone and internet services, except post-paid BSNL, continue to remain suspended across Kashmir.

(With inputs from Owais Farooqi and Bilal Habib)