Srinagar: The 34th death anniversary of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat was observed on Sunday amid a complete shutdown across Kashmir valley.
The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik had called for a Valley-wide shutdown. The government imposed strict restrictions under Section 144 of CrPC in several parts of old Srinagar and north Kashmir’s Kupwara district to foil any street protests.
However, the JKLF took out a protest march in Maisuma and tried to reach the United Nations office but police detained scores of JKLF activists and foiled the march.
According to reports from different districts of the Valley, streets across Kashmir wore a deserted look from early morning. The reports said that shops, business establishments and tuition centres remained closed throughout the day while public transport remained off the roads.
Restrictions in old Srinagar, eyewitnesses said, were so strict that government forces did not allow people to come out of their homes.
The situation in the old city remained peaceful till evening but violent clashes erupted in Nawakadal after 5pm and they spread to several parts of the old city.
Witnesses said clashes erupted when a large contingent of police and paramilitary CRPF were heading back to their stations and camps. “Police used tears smoke shells and stun grenades to disperse the protesters,” an eyewitness said, adding, “Clashes ended after dusk.”
People in central Kashmir’s Budgam area also observed a complete shutdown to express solidarity with the “Father of Kashmiri Nation,” as they described Maqbool Bhat. Only a few vendors ran their stalls on the side streets of the main town. Commuters had to wait for hours in order to find transport.
Police and paramilitary CRPF wearing riot gear were deployed in the district at several spots.
Ishfaq Ahmad, a resident of Khan Sahab area, told Kashmir Reader that people of Kashmir mark the day of Bhat’s hanging as a black day. “We cannot forget the purpose for which Maqbool sahab sacrificed his life,” he said. “We the people of Jammu and Kashmir should work for his dream without getting distracted in other things.”
Ishfaq said that Khan Sahib area witnessed a complete shutdown though some shops were open in Ichgaam. “People of Khan Sahib follow freedom leaders strictly. The situation in the past used to be different slightly but since scores of youth from our area sacrificed their life for the cause of freedom, things have changed completely,” he said.
South Kashmir remained peaceful with no protests or clashes reported during the day. However, very thin traffic movement was visible on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.