SHOPIAN: A complete shutdown continued for the eighth consecutive day in Shopian district on Friday against the killings of civilians and militants, marking the 45th day this year when routine life has remained paralysed in this south Kashmir district. Schools, colleges, markets, petrol pumps, public transport, and internet services all remained shut for the entire day, while street clashes broke out in the afternoon in the mini-secretariat area, Imam Sahib, and Meminder village.
After the culmination of Friday congregation prayers, groups of youth hit the streets and began pelting government forces guarding the mini-secretariat with stones. The forces retaliated with teargas shells and stun grenades. Eyewitnesses said that one youth was detained by the forces in Sofanaman area.
Later, clashes broke out in Meminder village where youth hurled stones on government forces guarding the Shopian MLA’s house. Here, too, teargas and sonic shells were fired to disperse the stone-throwing youth. The clashes were still going on when this report was filed. There were no reports of any injuries on either side.
At Imam Sahib, youths pelted government forces with stones and some teargas shells were fired in return. Eyewitnesses said that one youth was detained here during the clashes.
Internet services remain suspended in the district since April 30. The services were restored for four hours on May 2 and then suspended again.
Senior Superintendent of Police Shopian, Shailendra Kumar Mishra, confirmed the arrest of two persons. He said that they were arrested while pelting government forces with stones.
“There were clashes at three places. At Imam Sahib it was not much but there was massive stone-pelting in the mini-secretariat area and at Meminder village. Security forces used maximum restraint to avoid any kind of injury,” the SSP said, adding that police have a long list of stone-pelters who will be arrested soon.
Students in Shopian complained that the internet ban was hampering their preparations for competitive examinations. “I spent the past six months in preparation for two job-related exams, but the lack of internet didn’t let me complete the prescribed syllabus,” said Sayar Ahmad Lone, a resident of a Shopian village.
Muhammad Arif Bhat, a teacher who works at a private school in Shopian, said that education must be excluded from shutdown and strike calls.
Vendors and small-scale businessmen said they have suffered huge losses because of the continuous shutdown. “Our condition is such that we now have to beg for loans, but no one will give loans to us because we have nothing to give them back,” said Shabir Ahmad, a roadside vendor of vegetables and fruits.
A shopkeeper, Bilal Ahmad, said that at the end of the month shop rents have to be paid, but the shops have only been open for a week in the past month.