Kulgam remains shut for 3rd day – Kousar Nag Yatra
Clashes erupted in several areas of Kashmir Friday against the government’s reported move to allow a pilgrimage to Kousar Nag in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
The Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani and senior Hurriyat Conference Jammu Kashmir (HCJK) leader Shabir Ahmad Shah had called for protests after Friday prayers against the government move, describing it as “disastrous.” The leaders have also called for Kashmir-wide shutdown Saturday.
Soon after congregational Friday prayers, hundreds of people, amid anti-government slogans, took out a rally near Jamia Masjid Srinagar. Dozens of angry youth later resorted to stone-pelting at police and paramilitary forces. According to witnesses, heavy stone-pelting was witnessed at Nowhatta Chowk and Khawjabazar areas of the old city. Police resorted to teargas shelling to quell the protests. A youth was reportedly injured after he was hit by a teargas shell. He was rushed to SK Institute of Medical Sciences here.
People’s League leaders Jaffer Kashmiri and Imtiyaz Reshi also lead a protest in old city against Kousar Nag yatra.
Hundreds of residents of Aharbal and its surrounding areas staged a protest and marched towards Kousar Nag area of Kulgam district yesterday after reports that the Reasi District Administration was planning to facilitate an annual yatra to Kousar Nag where a pristine lake is situated.
KULGAM REMAINS SHUT
Meanwhile, a complete shutdown was observed in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district for the third consecutive day Friday, while locals strongly pitched for stopping the Kousar Nag yatra.
The newly-formed Kouser Nag Bachao Front (KBF), comprising civil society members from twin districts of Kulgam and Shopian, has been demanding complete halt to the proposed pilgrimage, maintaining that it would mean an “environmental catastrophe” to the ecologically-fragile area.
Reports said shops, commercial establishments and offices remained closed while traffic was off the roads. The KBF reiterated that their struggle is not against the pilgrimage but the “disaster which the human interference in the upper reaches of Pir Panchal mountain range could do to the fragile eco-system.”
“The yatra should be completely stopped; changing the route would not suffice,” said General Secretary KBF, Sajad Noorabadi.
Pertinently, the government Thursday reportedly cancelled the proposed Kausar Nag Yatra via Kashmir route while allowing the same through Reasi route in Jammu division. However, the district administration has been maintaining that they had not granted any formal permission to the Yatra.
Meanwhile, on the call of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, protests were held across South Kashmir against the Kausar Nag Yatra after the congregational Friday prayers.
As soon as the prayers concluded, people in large numbers held demonstrations in Kulgam town and DH Pora. The protesters were shouting pro-freedom slogans and carrying placards reading, ‘Don’t let Kashmir be another Gaza; Save Kousar Nag’.
Demos were also held in Shopian, Tral, Pulwama, Islamabad (Anantnag), Achabal and Arwani.
In North Kashmir’s Sopore town, scores of youth resorted to stone pelting on forces after protests. “Clashes erupted between forces and youth. Police and para-military forces used lathi-charge to disperse the protesters,” said witnesses.
Reports of peaceful protests were reported from Kupwara and Lolab as well.