NAZIR GILLO/MUHAMMAD SUHAIL
Srinagar/Anantnag: Government forces took over Anantnag’s Lal Chowk late Thursday evening and stayed put throughout the night. On Friday morning, all lanes and by-lanes leading towards Lal Chowk were sealed with concertina wires and no movement of people was allowed by police and other government troops.
Government forces also disallowed use of the public address system at Anantnag’s Jamia Masjid, where thin attendance was recorded during Friday congregational prayers due to the restrictions.
Shops, commercial establishments, banks, tuition centres, government as well as private offices remained shut in Anantnag and Bijbehara towns throughout the day. Local sources said that even government employees were not allowed to reach their offices and the highway was barricaded at places like Sangam, Bijbehara, Khannabal and several others in Anantnag district.
“Only Srinagar-bound traffic was allowed to ply today and that, too, on the newly opened by-pass of the highway,” the sources said.
In Anantnag, mobile internet services remained suspended for the second consecutive day, while train services were also suspended on the Banihal-Srinagar stretch.
The authorities had imposed Section 144 in the entire Anantnag district to prevent assembly of people.
Apart from minor incidents of stone-pelting in Kadipora and Janglat Mandi areas of main town Anantnag, no protest was reported from anywhere.
SSP Anantnag Altaf Khan told Kashmir Reader that the situation remained by and large peaceful across the district on Friday. “There were no incidents of any violence anywhere (in Anantnag district),” he said.
Concertina wires, heavy deployment of police, and barricades put up on roads were common sights at several places in Srinagar and Anantnag.
The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik had called on people to march to Anantnag on Friday and assemble at the town’s Lal Chowk to “demonstrate before the whole world what people of Kashmir stand for”. It had also said that the government’s response to the march would be “the litmus test for the claimants of democracy”.
In Srinagar, authorities had imposed restrictions on Friday in areas falling under the five police stations of Nowhatta, MR Gunj, Rainawari, Khanyar and Safakadal, while partial restrictions were imposed in areas under Masisuma and Kralkhud police stations.
Syed Ali Geelani continued to remain under house arrest and Mirwaiz was also put under house arrest ahead of the proposed march. When the Mirwaiz tried to defy the restrictions and lead a march from his house in Nigeeen area of Srinagar, police intercepted and arrested him.
“Chairman APHC Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was detained outside his Nigeen residence as soon as he tried to march towards Anantnag,” a Hurriyat (M) statement said.
On Twitter, Mirwaiz wrote: “Not allowed, arrested by the shameful ruling regime, spoke to media just before arrest.”
In a brief address to media persons, Mirwaiz questioned the restrictions in view of the JRL’s “peaceful programme”. “We had a peaceful programme but curfew has been imposed to block that. If they (government) claim to believe in democracy, don’t we have a right to express our ideas?” he said.
Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Yasin Malik had been earlier arrested and sent to Srinagar Central Jail.
Several leaders and activists of the Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference were detained in their homes by police or arrested and lodged in police stations. A source in the Hurriyat Conference (G) told Kashmir Reader that police on Thursday raided the houses of several members and detained them there. He said that the police arrested Syed Imtiyaz Hyder, Farooq Gutapori, Muhammad Yaseen Attai and Muhammad Yousuf Bhat and lodged them in police station Budgam.
Friday congregational prayers were disallowed at Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid. No one was allowed to enter the premises of the mosque and heavy deployment of government forces was made all around it.