Friday Fear: Kashmir Gagged / Protests Rock Chenab Valley
PROTESTS REPORTED FROM ACROSS VALLEY; POLICE POST TORCHED IN BANDIPORA; PRAYERS HELD FOR GURU
Government Friday imposed strict curfew across the valley to foil protests against the hanging of Muhammad Afzal Guru. However, defying the clampdown, protesters took to streets at several places demanding the body of Guru, who was hanged and buried in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail last Saturday. Several people were injured in clashes with police even as funeral prayers in absentia were held for Guru across the valley.
To thwart any protest demonstrations, the authorities deployed police and other forces from 5 A.M. in every nook and corner of Kashmir. Soon after the deployment, announcements were made on public address systems asking people not to defy the curfew and stay indoors.
The police did not allow congregational Friday prayers in mosques located at district headquarters and towns across the valley, including the historic Jamia Masjid Srinagar. At most places, the congregational Friday prayers were allowed in small mosques.
One person was injured and a police post was torched after massive protests and clashes erupted in various localities of Bandipora district of north Kashmir soon after Friday prayers.
Ghulam Nabi Dar son of Abdul Rehman Dar of Naidkhai was hit by pellets fired by police during clashes in Naidkhai Chowk. Protestors in Aloosa area of Bandipora torched a police post near Paribal camp where a huge procession coming from Astengoo and other villages was stopped by the police, CRPF and Army.
After the Friday prayers groups of youth assembled in the Main Chowk Naidkhai and proceeded towards Sumbal and pelted stones on the police and CRPF personnel. During the clashes, Ghulam Nabi was hit by pellet gun fire, a health official in Sumbal Hospital told Greater Kashmir.
The residents accused the CRPF and police of smashing their window panes and also pelting stones on residential houses. Due to curfew, Friday prayers couldn’t be held in main mosques. Authorities sealed various sensitive areas of Bandipora like Papchan, Aloosa, Nowpora, Nadihal, Naidkhai, Sumbal, Hajin and Ward 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 to prevent protests. Additional forces were deployed in these areas to avoid any protests. However people took to streets and clashed with cops in various localities.
Fearing protests after prayers, police and paramilitary CRPF in most places in downtown didn’t allow people to come out for prayers in main Jamia Masjid, though people were allowed to offer prayers in small mosques. No prayers were allowed in Jamia Masjid Bandipora, Jamia Masjid Sumbal and Jamia Masjid Hajin, locals told Greater Kashmir.
Prayers were held at Noor Masjid, Peer Masjid, Aloosa Masjid, Iqbal Masjid and Nag Masjid. However, only a modest gathering of people offered prayers.
After Friday prayers, people, mainly young boys, attempted to defy restrictions in several areas and staged pro-freedom protests and clashed with forces. Protests broke out in Aloosa, Astengoo, Naidkhai, Safapora, Ajar, Mantrigam localities in the afternoon. People were demanding the body of Afzal Guru.
Massive protests and heavy clashes were witnessed from Aloosa area of Bandipora where protesters torched a police post and damaged its windowpanes. Police and CRPF fired several tear smoke shells and resort to aerial firing to disperse the protesters.
People from various localities like Astengoo, Khenusa, Kanbathi, Ghat and Aloosa marched towards Bandipora but were stopped by police near Paribal.
At Ajas, forces cane charged protesters and lobbed tear smoke ammunition to disperse the protesters. Locals alleged Army, CRPF and Police barged into houses and thrashed inmates, damaged houses and windowpanes. The clashes were going on when this report was being filed.
Resident of Hajin accused CRPF of ransacking shops and houses in the area around Hajin market.
“The window panes of houses were smashed and our shops were ransacked by CRPF personnel who resorted to unprovoked thrashing of innocent youth of the area,” said a local.
Amid strict curfew imposed in Baramulla district, hundreds of people offered funeral prayers in absentia for Afzal Guru at various mosques across north Kashmir.
Baramulla town remained under strict curfew and all the exit and entrance points to the town were sealed. In old town Baramulla, hundreds of people took out a protest march from Jamia Masjid after Friday prayers and marched towards main chowk Azad Gunj where they offered funeral prayers in absentia for Afzal Guru.
In Rafiabad area, funeral prayers in absentia were offered in various mosques. In Watrgam area of Rafiabad, where 15-year old Ubair Ahmad was killed in alleged CRPF firing a few days back, people demanded immediate probe into the incident and murder charges against the CRPF personnel involved in the incident. Special prayers were also held in Wagoora, Sheeri, Fatehgarh, Pattan and Palhalan areas of Baramulla district.
Reports said that strong protests demonstrations were held in Achbal, Doabgah, Ladoora, Jagir, Bahrampur, Watrgam. Reports said that hundreds of people in these areas took to streets and held protest demonstrations. They were demanding the body of Afzal Guru.
Protests were held at various places in Kupwara and Handwara soon after Friday prayers. Reports said that defying the curfew, people took to streets in Trehgam, Regipora, Sogam and Salkote areas. They were raising pro-freedom and anti-India slogans and were demanding the body of Afzal Guru. Police used tear smoke shells and cane charged the protestors.
Protests also erupted in Handwara town and Langate area after Friday prayers. They were demanding body of Afzal Guru.
Strict curfew remained imposed in Srinagar district and all roads leading to Eidgah were sealed with razor wire and armored vehicles.
Due to strict curfew, Friday prayers couldn’t be offered at several mosques in the old city especially those situated along the main roads. No prayers were held at central Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta.
“The CRPF men didn’t allow us to come out of our homes. They told us that masjids will remain closed today,” Abdul Rashid, a Nowhatta resident, told Greater Kashmir. He said that after every 100 meters, police and CRPF men had erected barricades and laid spools of razor wire to block the roads.
The roads leading to Eidgah were sealed by barricades. Additional police and paramilitary was deployed around the area. Curfew also had an impact on tourist areas like Dalgate and Boulevard Road which were deserted. The shops and restaurants along the Boulevard remained closed.
At around 11.30 AM, protests broke out at several places in old city areas like Nowhatta, Rajouri Kadal, Bagihas, Safa Kadal, Khanyar, Sakidafer, Noorbagh and in other areas.
Reports said that defying the curfew, groups of youth in these areas took to streets and held strong protest demonstrations. They were raising pro-freedom slogans and were demanding the body of Afzal Guru.
Police burst tear smoke shells and cane charged the youth at Nowhatta, Rajouri Kadal, Bagihas, Safa Kadal and Khanyar. However, no one was injured.
The residents of these areas alleged that the forces entered into their residential house and ransacked property.
Protests were also held in Nadirgund Peerbagh after Friday prayers.
The locals accused the police of threatening the Imams of not making any mention of Afzal Guru. “But we took out peaceful processions and also offered Nimaz Jenaza”, the residents said.
The locals also accused the police of going berserk which resulted in clashes.
Strict curfew was in force in Budgam district and people at several places tried to take out protest rallies, however they stopped by the forces. No congregational prayers were offered at main mosques in district because of clampdown by the forces.
Reports said that groups of youth tried to take out protest rallies in Budgam town, Char-e-Sharief and Beerwah. Around half a dozen youth were arrested in Char-e-Sharief.
Clashes between protesting youth and forces were reported from several places from Ganderbal district.
After Friday prayers, people assembled outside Markazi Jamia Masjid Safapora in Lar Tehsil and staged protests. Chanting slogans, protesters try to march ahead. Forces tried to prevent them, triggering clashes. The youth pelted stones on forces and police fired tear smoke shells in air and dispersed them.
Protesting youth tried to march on Srinagar-Leh highway at Satrina in Kangan area. Police intercepted them and did not allow them to defy the curfew. Police burst tear smoke shells and chased away the protestors.
People staged protests outside their respective Jamia Masjids in many places and disbursed peacefully which include Manigam, Wakura and Dub area in Lar Tehsil. The protests were held in Sumbal Balla, Preng, Arigoripora and Shodgund in Kangan Tehsil, at Nagbal and Beehama in Ganderbal tehsil.
Reports of offering prayers in absentia came in from Kullan, Manigam, Kangan town, Safapora, Watlar, Repora and Yenihama and other places.
Scarce presence of people was reported in Jamia Masjids of the main towns of the district as curfew remained strictly imposed amid heavy deployment of forces to thwart any protests.
A strict curfew was imposed for the seventh running day in all South Kashmir towns on Friday to thwart protest demonstrations and clashes against hanging of Afzal Guru.
However, reports of massive protest demonstrations were received from the peripheral areas in all four districts of South Kashmir.
Police and paramilitary forces armed with sophisticated weapons were deployed in strength in every lane and by-lane of Islamabad town to impose strict curfew. Locals alleged that the government forces did not allow them to attend the Friday congregational prayers. “Every house in our locality had a police or a CRPF personnel standing at their doorstep. They did not allow us to venture outside our houses and whosoever made an attempt was chased and beaten to pulp,” residents said.
Several youth allegedly involved in stone pelting were reportedly rounded up by the police in the old town during overnight raids.
Islamabad town was under stringent curfew for the seventh straight day Friday and there has been no relaxation.
However, massive protest demonstrations were organized in Dooru, Verinag and Achabal villages. Reports said that soon after the afternoon congregational prayers, people took to streets amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans and were demanding body of Afzal Guru who was buried in Tihar jail. However, police and paramilitary forces resorted to baton charge and lobbed tear gas canisters in Dooru to quell the protesters who retaliated by pelting stones.
Strict curfew also remained imposed in Bijbehara, Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian, Tral, Awantipora, Pampore and Kakpora towns of South Kashmir.
However, reports of protests and clashes were reported from Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts too. “Protestors resorted to heavy stone pelting in Imam Sahib village of Shopian district,” witnesses said. They said that several youth were rounded up by the police following clashes.
Protest demonstrations were also held in Lurgam village of Tral against the execution of Afzal Guru. Tral town also remained under strict curfew.
“People were told to pray in their local mosques,” said a resident of Tral area in Pulwama district. “The youth were not allowed to pray even in the local mosques,” a resident said.
Reports of protests were also received from Ruhumu village of Pulwama district. In Redwani village of Kulgam district, people alleged that after the peaceful protests in the area the government forces barged into several houses and ransacked household goods, smashed window panes and damaged vehicles. “They also beat the inmates and did not even spare women and children,” villagers alleged.
Funeral prayers in absentia for Afzal Guru were reportedly offered in several mosques of South Kashmir.
On Thursday, authorities had relaxed curfew at several places except Islamabad town.
“The situation remained by and large peaceful barring few incidents of stone pelting at Naid Khai, Azad Gunj Baramulla, Handwara, Ajas Bandipora, Muran Pulwama, Charar-i-Sharief and Qaimoh Kulgam. Police exercised maximum restraint while tackling the law and order situations,” a police spokesman said here.
One person Ghulam Nabi Dar son of Abdul Rahman resident of Naid Khai got injured in his right leg at Naid Khai who has been hospitalized. Three policemen were also injured in a pelting incident at Handwara and Charar-i-Sharief, he added.
OMAR REVIEWS SITUATION:
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reviewed the overall security situation in the valley in a high level meeting held at his residence here. Among other officials the meeting was also attended by MoS Home Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo and Director General of Police Ashok Prasad.
Official sources said that DGP briefed the Chief Minister regarding the security situation. They said that police and security officials were directed to continue to exercise restraint while dealing with people in the aftermath of hanging of Afzal Guru. They were asked to continue to remain vigilant to prevent the situation from going out of hand.
PROTESTS ROCK CHENAB VALLEY
Normal life across Chenab valley remained disrupted Friday as all the major towns across the region observed shutdown to protest hanging of Muhammad Afzal Guru.
While Chenab region observed bandh and witnessed protests, large number of people offered prayers in absentia for Afzal Guru at various places in twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri. At Rajouri, large number of people while condemning hanging of Guru passed a resolution demanding return of his body to the family.
Reports reaching here revealed that amid complete shutdown in all major towns including Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Banihal and other places, people in large numbers staged strong protest demonstrations after Friday prayers condemning “secret” hanging of Afzal Guru maintaining that his trial was not fair as he was not given a chance to defend himself.
All the shops and other business establishments remained closed in all the major townships of Chenab region. The traffic movement on the roads was also affected.
Bandh call was given by separatist leaders from local mosques following which people from all walks of life gathered at specified places and took out protest demonstrations raising pro-freedom and pro-Guru.
The district administration had made elaborate security arrangements and huge deployment of security forces was made across the Chenab valley region in view of the bandh call.
At Bhaderwah, Banihal and Kishtwar towns, people held demonstrations and raised slogans against the government.
Speakers while condemning “secret” execution of Guru said that the victim was not given any chance to defend himself. They also said that he was innocent and had nothing to do with the attack on Indian Parliament. They said “it was a shame on the so-called democracy as victim was not allowed to defend himself.”
Further more, the speakers also said that such atrocities on the innocent Kashmiris would further escalate tension in South East Asia. They appealed the international community to intervene and demanded an inquiry into the “secret execution” of Afzal Guru by an independent agency like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch.
At Poonch, large number of people performed prayers in absentia for Afzal Guru at various places amid tight security.
Large number of people assembled at Parade Park after Friday prayers and offered Namaz-e-Jinazah (funeral prayers in absentia) for Afzal Guru.
In Mandi area thousands of people offered prayers in absentia for Guru. After offering prayers people said that Afzal did not get proper justice and his hanging was selective and politically motivated.
Sensing gravity of the situation, the district administration had earlier organized a meeting of prominent citizens of Poonch and sought their help in maintaining law and order. People belonging to different communities also assured full support in maintaining peace and prosperity in the district.
Meanwhile, people at Thanamandi passed a resolution terming Afzal Guru’s hanging as undemocratic and demanded that his body should be handed back to his family. The resolution was later handed over to the higher authorities.