Afzal hanging anniversary: protests, clashes in valley

Srinagar: A complete shutdown, protests and clashes on Thursday marked the fourth death anniversary of Afzal Guru, who was hanged by the Indian state in Tihar Jail on February 9, 2013.
Clashes erupted in several localities of Kashmir especially in Old city area of Soura and his hometown Sopore where protesters and government forces were locked in stone-pelting clashes.
Several youths and police personnel suffered injuries during clashes in Soura’s main market.
Clashes were reported from Sopore area after midday prayers amid protests carried out by locals who were demanding Guru’s mortal remains back. Guru was buried in Tihar Jail premises.
According to eye-witnesses, the police and paramilitary forces resorted to tear-gas shelling to disperse the protesters.
All offices, shops and business establishments were shut against the strike call given by pro-freedom camp to commemorate Guru, convicted on charges of conspiring 2001 Parliament attack.
The traffic services also remained disrupted and only private vehicle movement was witnessed on roads.
The authorities had imposed curfew-like restrictions in parts of the valley especially in areas, seen as ‘sensitive’ by the security establishment.
Several areas including parts of Old city like Nowhatta, Maharaj Gunj, Rainawari, Maisuma and commercial hub of Lal Chowk were sealed off by the police and paramilitary forces. The police had cordoned off these areas to foil any protest attempts while barricades and barbed wires were erected at key entry points.
The strike call was given in a joint resistance program by both factions of Hurriyat Conference and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) against Guru’s hanging. The pro-freedom camp and a significant population of Kashmiris believe Guru’s hanging was arbitrary.
The shutdown was religiously observed in rural South Kashmir as well as in North Kashmir’s areas especially Sopore and Baramulla, Guru’s hometown.
The authorities had suspended all rail services in the Valley in view of the shutdown. “The rail services between Banihal and Baramulla were closed for commute to avoid any law and order situation,” an official said.
The police arrested lawmaker Er Abdul Rasheed and ten others following an attempt to attend a seminar, organized by his party Awami Itihaad Party (AIP), on Guru and Maqbool Bhat, another Kashmiri hanged by the state in 1984.
“Police today arrested Rasheed on way to Kupwara to pay tributes to Mohammad Afzal Guru and Mohammad Maqbool Bhat,” a party spokesperson said.
Rasheed was detained in Handwara police station after he defied police restrictions and began marching towards Kupwara.
The authorities are likely to continue restrictions for next two days as joint-resistance have called for march to UN observers office here on Friday and a shutdown on February 11 to commemorate Maqbool Bhat’s death anniversary. Bhat was hanged in Tihar in 1984.
The joint-resistance led by pro-freedom leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik have urged people to make the ‘United Nations March’ program called a success.
The pro-freedom camp demand the mortal remains of both Guru and Bhat returned to their families.