People say police coming to rescue of culprits; activist dons woman’s wig to stage protest at Press Enclave
Srinagar: Routine life in Srinagar came to a standstill on Monday as people observed a strike called by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) to protest the continuing incidents of braid-chopping in Kashmir. Schools, colleges, business establishments were closed and public transport was off the roads, even as the authorities imposed curfew-like restrictions in areas under seven police stations of Nowhatta, Khanyar, MR Gunj, Safakadal, Rainawari, Maisuma and Kralkhud.
Barbed wires were also placed at entry and exit points of the old city. Heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces was made at several sensitive places.
Students of Kashmir University (KU) said they had to face difficulties in reaching the varsity to appear in their exams. Asiya Sarwar, a student, said while waiting for transport home at KU, “I left for university early in the morning but could not find any transport. I then called a few of my friends, who somehow managed to book an auto-rickshaw that picked me up. Now I am waiting for more than an hour for transport to go back home. My parents had told me to reach home before 5pm as braid-choppers have unleashed terror on women.”
Another student, Asma Mushtaq, said that KU should have cancelled examinations. “This is really frustrating for girls like me. Doesn’t the university administration know that in the current circumstances anything can happen to us while waiting for buses on deserted roads? They should be ashamed for conducting examinations in such an atmosphere,” she said.
In Batamaloo, police resorted to baton-charge and fired teargas shells to disperse hundreds of protesters who came out on the main road to protest against the braid-chopping incident that took place on Sunday morning in Firdous Abad area. The protesters raised anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.
Residents of Firdous Abad and other areas of Batamaloo claimed that two masked men sneaked into the house of Muhammad Akbar and chopped the braid of his 30-year-old wife when she was hanging clothes out for drying.
“I have just one question for the police department: Have their informers turned blind that they are not able to provide leads in any braid-chopping case? How does their network of informers become so active when they have to arrest stone-throwers or to kill a militant?” a protestor who identified himself as Ashiq Hussain said.
Another elderly person who was also part of the protest questioned the role of the government if it could not address public grievances. “Does the Government of India want us to pick up arms? If they want us to do so, we won’t hesitate in picking up arms to save the dignity of our women,” he said.
In Qamarwari, youth took to stone-pelting early in the morning. They alleged that police had fired teargas shells without any provocation on Sunday night.
The protesting youths said that they could have nabbed two motorcycle-riding men who had tried to enter the house of their neighbour in Barthana. “The moment the people ran after them, policemen came and fired teargas shells to disperse us,” a resident of Qamarwari said.
At the Press Enclave near Lal Chowk, human right activist Mohammad Ahsan Untoo staged a protest donning a woman’s wig. He said that his protest was “for the honour of Kashmiri women”.
“I don’t understand why if people catch someone, does the police call them innocent, or say that the victim has a psychological disorder. I think it is the police, not the victims, who are suffering from psychological disorder,” he said.
Reports of protests against braid-chopping came from areas of Habba Kadal, Brain-Nishat, Dalgate, Kanipora, Nowgam and Chattergam.
Mohammad Afzal, a resident of Chattergam, said that youth there pelted stones on government forces. He said he managed to reach Lal Chowk by taking an alternative route through Budgam.
“The youths did not allow anyone to move forward beyond Chattergam Chowk. They damaged the vehicles of those who asked them to let them go,” he said.
Muzammil Shah of Harwan said that dozens of men and women blocked the main road in Brain-Nishat by placing boulders. “I saw youths damaging the bumper of a car there, so I took another route to reach Lal Chowk,” he said.
A shutdown was also observed in other districts of the valley, where schools, colleges and business establishments remained closed and public transport off the roads.
People in Kulgam, Pulwama, and Anantnag districts remained indoors or were busy in their farms. There was no report of any protest or stone-pelting anywhere in the districts.
In Shopian, locals said, a complete shutdown was observed. They said that students did not attend schools and shops were completely shut. “Despite the peak apple season, people remained indoors,” locals said.
Reports of a complete to partial shutdown came from Baramulla and Kupwara districts. A complete shutdown was reported in Sopore and a partial shutdown in main town Baramulla, where traffic was seen plying on roads. Similar reports came from Kupwara as well.
Locals complained of low internet speed in Baramulla for the past many days. “There is only 2G internet speed,” a resident of Sopore said. “It has been tough for the students and professional to do the work,” he said.
In Bandipora, shopkeepers stayed away from business and no movement of public transport was observed. Similar reports of shutdown came from Budgam as well.