Complete shutdown was observed across Kashmir on Friday as people remembered Muhammad Afzal Guru, who was sent to gallows secretly in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail on February 9, 2013.
The government imposed strict curbs in downtown here, without making any announcement, even as congregational Friday prayers were yet again barred at the historic Jamia Masjid Srinagar. Almost all the pro-freedom leaders were either placed under house arrest or lodged in various prisons across the Valley.
While Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani continues to remain caged in his Hydeprora residence since 2010, Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has also been confined to his Nigeen residence for past over two weeks. JKLF chief Muhammad Yasin Malik was recently arrested and lodged in Central Jail Srinagar.
The call for the strike was given by Joint Resistance Leadership – comprising Geelani, Mirwaiz and Malik – against the hanging of Guru. The strike was also called to seek the return of mortal remains of Guru, who is buried in the Tihar Jail.
Life came to a standstill across Kashmir as the strike call evoked total response. In Lal Chowk, the commercial hub of Kashmir, all the shops, private institutions and other business establishments remained closed. Roads wore a deserted look as a very thin traffic was plying.
In downtown areas, strict curbs remained in place amid heavy deployment of forces. The areas that were under tight restrictions include Nowhatta, Rainawari, MahrajGunj, Khanyar, SafaKadal and partial curbs were in force in Kralakhud and Maisuma areas.
Forces personnel including paramilitary CRPF men were wearing riot gears to prevent any protest against Guru’s hanging in downtown areas. All the major roads were closed with rolls of concertina wires and there was hardly any civilian movement on the roads.
No Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid:
The government didn’t allow the congregational Friday prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid for the third consecutive Friday, and fourth since January 1 this year, evoking strong criticism from the people.
A witness said that all entry gates of the historic Jamia Masjid were sealed while armoured vehicles of police and CRPF were placed at main chowkNowhatta. “Nobody was allowed to proceed towards Jamia Masjid for prayers,” said Reyaz Ahmed, a resident of Nowhatta.
A spokesman of the Hurriyat Conference (M) strongly condemned the restrictions in downtown Srinagar and also in Sopore area of Baramulla in view on the fifth anniversary of Afzal Guru.
In a statement issued here, the spokesman lashed out at the government for barring people from Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid Srinagar for the consecutive third week and forth time this year besides caging chairman of the amalgam Mirwaiz Umar Farooq continuously at his Nigeen residence. “Kashmir has been turned in to a jail where everyone is feeling insecure. Using suppressive tactics like imposition of curfew, restrictions, arrests, putting leadership under arrest is aimed to muzzle the genuine dissent in Kashmir has become a routine affair of those at the helm. Such oppressive tactics have never succeeded in breaking the resolve of freedom loving people,” the spokesman said.
Condolence meet at Guru’s house:
Amid curbs, many people including pro-freedom leaders and activists managed to reach Afzal Guru’s house at JagirGhat in Sopore, Baramulla district. A witness said that people and the resistance leaders extended solidarity with Guru’s wife and son. “They later staged a protest and demanded return of mortal remains of Guru,” the witness said. He said that a Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) delegation led by Engineer Farooq Ahmed, also reached JagirGhat on Thursday evening and set up a free food-stall for the guests. “The activists of DFP later staged a protest and demand mortal remains of Guru,” the witness said.
JKLF leaders, activists stage protest:
JKLF leaders and activists gathered at AbiGuzar here and staged a protest demanding the return of the mortal remains of Muhammad Maqbool Bhat and Muhammad Afzal Guru. In a statement issued here, the spokesman said that Front leaders including Noor Muhammad Kalwal, Mushtaq Ajmal, Muhammad Yasin Butt, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, Bashir Ahmad Kashmiri, Muhammad Sideeq Shah, professor Javed, Ashraf Bin Salam, Merajud din and others participated in the protest sit-in. “The protestors were holding pla-cards depicting the photographs of Bhat and Guru and raising slogans in favour of the return of their mortal remains. The protesters marched towards press enclave and staged a peaceful protest there which was addressed by various leaders,” the statement said.
Youth injured in Mochu:
A witness said that a youth was injured when government forces fired pellets at him during protests at Mochu in Budgam district. “Clashes between youths and government forces were on and when youth refused to disperse, government forces fired pellets at the youths. One youth sustained multiple pellet injuries and was shifted to hospital for treatment,” a witness said.