Srinagar, Aug 11: At least eight persons, including senior Hurriyat Conference leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz, were killed and hundreds injured today when police and para-military CRPF troopers unleashed unprecedented brute force on unarmed and peaceful people across the Valley, on a day when fruit growers had called for a march to Muzaffarabad to export their rotting produce. The Muzaffarabad chalo call was given in the wake of economic blockade of the Valley by fanatic groups in Jammu.
Reports said Sheikh Aziz and other senior Hurriyat leader Shabir Ahmad Shah were marching towards LoC along with hundreds of thousands of people, when police and CRPF opened indiscriminate firing on them near Chahal Uri, killing Aziz and three other persons on the spot. "At least 10 others also received bullet injures." Reports said Shabir Shah was arrested few kms short of Uri.
The other two persons killed in the incident have been identified as Manzoor Ahmad Akhoon son of Haji Abdul Shaban of Khanpora Varmul and Abdul Hamid Bhat of Kanlibagh, Varmul.
Eyewitnesses said Aziz received bullet injuries in stomach and was rushed to SMHS here, where doctors declared him dead.
Doctors at SMHS hospital confirmed that Aziz died of a gunshot wound.
Immediately after news about Aziz's death spread, curfew was imposed in entire Srinagar city. Official sources said curfew would be imposed in other districts and tehsil headquarters as a precautionary measure.
The marchers had reached Chahal, just 40 kilometres from the LoC, despite repeated efforts by police and paramilitary forces to break up the demonstration with tear smoke canisters and firing at different places.
"Troops again opened fire at Bonyar (Uri) after the procession surged ahead braving curfew restrictions and road blocks created by police and army. One more person died in the firing at Bonyar," reports pouring in from Varmul said.
With casualty figures rising, emergency has been declared in hospitals in Srinagar and Varmul, official sources told Greater Kashmir.
Meanwhile, chairmen of both the factions of the Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq who are under house arrest have appealed to the people to continue Muzzafarabad march on Tuesday also.
Elsewhere in the Valley, protests, firing and clashes were reported throughout the day, in which one person died in Srinagar and two in Sopur.
Director Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences Dr Abdul Hameed Zarger said that 17 injured were brought to the hospital till 5 pm. "One among them has bullet injury while rest have been injured by tear smoke shells," he said.
Medical Superintendent, SMHS Hospital, Waseem Quershi said that 75 injured have been brought to the hospital since morning. "Two among them died in the hospital," he confirmed.
In the evening, announcements were made in masjids across the Valley asking people to offer funeral prayers in absentia for Sheikh Aziz and others killed in police firing. Thousands of people participated in such prayers.
Thousands of people led by Hurriyat (M) leaders, Shahid-ul-Islam and Javed Ahmad Mir tried to march towards Muzzafarabad from Rajouri Kadal in Shehr-e-Khas early in the morning. Eyewitnesses said that as soon the procession reached Cement Bridge, Qamarwari, police fired tear smoke canisters to disperse the rally.
However, the processionists continued to move towards Parimpora Fruit Mandi, after which police fired on the protesters resulting in death of at least one person and injures to dozens others. The dead has been identified as Ishfaq Ahmad son of Ghulam Muhammad of Qamarwari.
Ishfaq was brought to the SMHS hospital, after he received two bullets, where he was declared dead.
Hurriyat (M) leader, Hakim Abdur Rashid has also been reportedly injured in the police action.
Another procession led by Hurriyat (G) leaders Masrat Alam, Ghulam Nabi Sumji and General Musa, which started from Tankipora was also fired upon near Qamarwari in which dozens of people were reportedly injured.
The processionists were raising slogans against the economic blockade and attack on Muslims and Kashmiri drivers and others in Jammu.
The JKLF (R) leader Muhammad Saleem Nanaji and his supporters were stopped by the police at Karan Nagar while they were marching towards Muzzaffarabad, reports said. Police fired tear smoke canisters to disperse the rally.
Similarly, police used force to disperse a procession of Dukhtrran-e-Millat at Qamarwari. Several women activists of DeM were injured in the police action, eyewitnesses said.
They said that police broke the windowpanes of the vehicle in which DeM activists were traveling.
People at Batmaloo alleged CRPF troopers entered houses and beat up inmates and damaged household besides windowpanes.
Police also fired at protesters in Khanyar area of Shehr-e-Khas, in which two people including a lady have been reportedly injured.
The police and CRPF troopers had sealed fruit Mandi Parimpora and trucks laden with fruit were either seized or their tyres deflated, reports added.
GHULAM MUHAMMAD ADDS FROM SOPUR
Two persons were killed and more than 20 injured when police and paramilitary troopers opened fire on protesters near Sangrama in north Kashmir's Varmul district.
Reports said that thousands of protesters took to streets of Sopur on Monday morning, shouting anti-government and pro-freedom slogans.
Police and CRPF had very tough time to control them, who were also joined by chairmen of Muslim League Mushtaq-ul-Islam and Islamic Students League Shakeel Ahmad Bakshi.
Mushtaq and Bakshi were later taken into custody along with their supporters.
When the protesters reached Sangrama, police resorted to tear smoke shelling besides fired indiscriminately on the protesters, killing two persons and injuring 22 others.
The dead were identified as Tahir Nazir Lone son of Nazir Ahmad of Thenam Kreeri, Pattan and Irfan Ahmad War son of Bashir Ahmad of Krashun Sopur.
Reports said that the protesters broke all barricades placed by police in and around Sopur town, particularly around the Fruit Mandi, where thousands of fruit growers were camping from Sunday night. They also burnt down two vehicles of SOG.
Eyewitnesses said the police cordoned off the Fruit Mandi area during the night besides arrested 10 members of the Fruit Growers Coordination Committee.
The protests in Sopur were joined by thousands of people from its adjoining areas, who later marched toward Muzaffarbad.
ALTAF BABA reports FROM VARMUL
In Varmul town, curfew like situation prevailed since early this morning with forces guarding the deserted streets on both sides of the road.
People were being advised by the forces to remain indoors because of curfew. A large number of troops were deployed on the Srinagar-Pattan-Varmul-Uri road since Sunday night.
However, when the processionists from Sopur reached Varmul, thousands of people from different north Kashmir areas, including Sangrama, joined them.
The processionists reach Sheri, seven kms from Varmul on way to Uri where thousands of people were waiting for them.
More than 45 injured have been admitted in District Hospital Varmul while clashes between police and protesters continued till late in the evening.
Reports said the protesters burnt down the house of SHO Gantamulla, Khurshid Khan at Khawja Bagh Varmul. The protesters alleged that Khan was involved in the firing on protesters near Chahal in which Sheik Aziz and two more persons were killed.
The protesters later in the evening also attacked police station Varmul and in retaliation police fired gunshots and tear smoke shells. Clashes were on till late in the evening in entire town.
Earlier in the day people in the town served the processionists with food and beverages.
SHAHID RAFIQ REPORTS FROM KUPWARA
Thousands of people in this frontier district tried to march towards Muzzafferabad, but police thwarted the moves. More than 50 people were injured while reports said that 15 policemen were also injured in the ding-dong clashes throughout the day.
The Army near Zangli Gate stopped a procession of some five thousand people coming from Lolab, reports said. "The Army closed the Zangli main gate and didn't allow the marchers to move towards Kupwara."
Police fired tear smoke canisters and also fired in air to disperse a procession in main Kupwara chowk in which dozens of people were injured.
Eyewitnesses said that police smashed windowpanes of nearby house and thrashed several people including women after the clashes.
In Handwara, reports said that about 10 thousand people with 100 fruit trucks tried to march towards Varmul, but were stopped at Langate by the police. Police used force to disperse the procession.
In remote areas of Mawar and Rajwar thousands of people tried to march towards Bangus valley to cross LoC. However, the police and Army, reports added, stopped them in Nowgam sector.
Clashes between protesters and police were reported from other areas of the district also till late in the evening.
KHALID GUL REPORTS FROM ISLAMABAD/KULGAM
Thousands of people assembled in Lal Chowk, Islamabad and started a foot march towards Muzaffarabad. However, the march was not allowed to proceed forward at Khanabal Bridge as all the entry and exit points to the district were blocked with huge contingent of Army and paramilitary troopers. They had also put barricades at various places on Islamabad-Srinagar highway.
The protesters then proceeded towards Sarnal chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. They also protested against the economic blockade and attack on Muslim community in Jammu by the fanatics. There was huge deployment of troops and police in almost all parts of the town throughout the day.
When the protest reached near General Bus Stand there was a confrontation between some youth and the CRPF troopers. However, the situation was bought under control after intervention from some elderly persons.
Earlier, the fruit growers here alleged that they were threatened by notorious government gunman, Sheikh Tahir, of dire consequences if any one of them tried to march towards Muzaffarabad.
Later, in the evening as soon as the news of firing over the march in Varmul spread, the angry youth pelted stones on the police and troopers. They also ransacked the Punjab National Bank at Lal Chowk.
Pitched battles were going on between police and people till late evening. The protest was led by District President Tehreeki-Hurriyat; Hafizullah, Mirwaiz Islamabad, Qazi Yasir, Mahaz-I-Azadi president; Muhammad Iqbal Mir and District President APHC (M); Fayaz Ahmad Saudagar.
Elsewhere in the district protests were also held in Bijbehara, Shangus and Achabal.
After news about Sheikh Aziz's death spread, about 10,000 people assembled in Lal Chowk Islamabad and were protesting till late evening. Reports said that Qazi Yasir was put under house arrest later in the evening.
Undeclared curfew was imposed here early in the morning with huge deployment of troopers and police, curtailing the movement of the people.
However, in the afternoon people defied the curfew and carried a massive protest which was dispersed by the troopers and police by resorting to cane charge and tear gas shelling. Reports of protests were also received from Yaripora and Qazigund.
AYUB JAVAID reports FROM PULWAMA
50 persons were injured 10 of them critically in ding-dong battles between police and protesters at Samboora, Patlibagh, Muran, Trichal, Pulwama town, Keegam, Gagren and Nallah Rambiara in south Kashmir's Pulwama district on Monday. Doctors at district hospital confirmed bullet injuries to nine civilians during the violent incidents that rocked areas of Pulwama and Shopian during Muzaffarabad Chalo rallies on Monday.
Nearly 5000 persons boarded trucks at Pulwama town this morning and started marching towards Srinagar for Muzaffarabad. However on reaching Samboora, troops and policemen dispersed them by resorting to baton charge and tear smoke shells. Eyewitnesses said that the troops also fired gunshots to quell the protesters. During the dingdong battle, 20 persons received injuries.
In the nearby village of Kakapora, demonstrators set ablaze a Gypsy and smashed the bunkers on Kakapora Bridge. The wards of district hospital were filled-up with injured and the cries of ailing relatives.
At Muran village police opened fire on the mob leaving two civilians injured. Doctors at District Hospital told Greater Kashmir that among the 32 injured nine had received bullet injuries.
The Trichal hamlet also witnessed a battle between CRPF and a procession trying to sneak into the town from villages of Litter, Tahab and Tumlahal. Reports of peaceful processions have also come in from villages of Ichgoze, Keller, Bamnoo, Pinjora and Imamsahab.
Violent demonstrations rocked places like Gagren, Rambiara Bridge and Keegam villages of this south Kashmir district left 10 persons injured. The angry protestors attacked the vehicle of SHO Shopian at Rambiara and threw it into the nallah. Bunkers on the bridge were set on fire during the incident.
At Gagren a constable of 166 BN Saifudin was injured in stone pelting by mob while Keegam was the worst hit where the people torched gypsy of SP Shopian and also caused damage to the vehicle of ACR Shopian.
12 persons including six policemen were injured on the spot that lasted for two hours. Earlier fruit growers and locals assembled at Fruit Mandi Shopian and marched on roads to support the Muzaffarabad Chalo call.
In the wake of mounting public anger and massive protests after firing on peaceful protesters across the Valley, the administration imposed indefinite curfew in Srinagar and major towns in the evening.
In city areas, policemen were seen making announcements about the imposition of curfew, urging people to stay indoors. But the announcements were met with public rebuke everywhere in the city.
Thousands defy curfew
Thousands of people tonight defied the curfew restriction and took to streets in different parts of the valley, protesting against the killing of Sheikh Abdul Aziz and others in police firing today.
As the body of Sheikh reached the historic Jamia masjid, thousands of people, including women and children, reached there from different areas.
A resident from Shar-e-Khas told UNI over phone that thousands of people inside the mosque, raising pro freedom and anti government slogans.
Nobody is inside their houses as people are on roads, protesting against the police firing on peaceful processionists, he said.
Reports of late night demonstrations were also received from entire old city, including Chota Bazar, Habba Kadal, Kani Kadal and Khankah-e-Moula.
People also defied restrictions and raised pro freedom and religious slogans in the outskirts.
A report said thousands of people also took to streets at Pampore, the home town of Sheikh.