J&K tense again with fresh protests, call for ‘azadi’
After some hopes of normalcy emerged with the lifting of curfew in some districts, it was back to square one as fresh protests, some violent, erupted across Kashmir Valley as people defied a curfew re-imposed to prevent a separatist-called protest march to Jamia Masjid – the main mosque on Friday.
Normal life across the Valley remained paralysed for the 21st day in a row. It is expected to remain so until the end of this month as the separatists extended their protest shutdown till July 31.
In Srinagar, hundreds of people, swinging green flags, defied restrictions and marched from a nearby mosque to a United Nations office. They held a noisy demonstration outside the UN office.
Chanting “We want freedom”, the protesters demanded UN intervention to resolve the Kashmir dispute and an end to what they said, were human rights abuses by security forces in the Valley.
Police dispersed the stone-throwing crowd of men and some women with batons and tear gas. A police spokesperson said no reports of injuries were received.
Similar protests and clashes occurred near the city centre Lal Chowk – the main business hub of Srinagar.
Protest marches were also held in at least a dozen places, including Bandipore and Sopore towns of north Kashmir, that had been relatively calm in the days of unrest when some 50 people were killed in firing by police and paramilitary troopers.
South Kashmir, the worst-hit in the ongoing unrest, saw nocturnal protests raging almost through the night, with people carrying flaming torches and marching in main towns.
The region erupted afresh on Friday with more protests at many places, police said.
In Shopian, after Friday prayers, people held a rally. Security forces chased the stone throwers using tear gas and pellet guns. Locals said dozens of protesters were injured. This could not be verified officially.
Authorities on Friday imposed curfew and restrictions in the Valley to prevent separatist-called protests in Srinagar.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik had called for the protest march to Jamia Masjid in Srinagar.
Police took Geelani and Mirwaiz Farooq, who have been under house arrest, into brief preventive custody after they defied the restrictions and came out of their houses to march to the mosque.
Malik has been lodged in a Srinagar lockup since the fresh summer unrest began a day after Wani was killed.
Separatists have, however, said people should engage in activities like shopping for a few hours after 7 p.m. during this period.
Shops, businesses and schools will remain closed as separatists have also urged people to come out on the streets on Saturday and Sunday and offer midday and early evening prayers on roads in defiance of government-imposed restrictions on the assembly of four or more people in groups.