Kashmir Friday observed a complete shutdown against the “fresh arrest spree” by the police, ban on socio-religious organisation Jamaat-e-Islami, National Investigation Agency raids in the Valley, “assault” on Article 35-A and slapping of Public Safety Act on separatist leaders.
The call for shutdown, given by the Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik, evoked near-total response across the Valley.
In Srinagar’s commercial hub Lal Chowk, all business establishments and private institutions remained closed, while very thin traffic plied on roads. Street vendors also responded to the JRL call.
For the second consecutive week, the police did not allow congregational Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid here, triggering strong criticism from its Anjuman-e-Auqaf, which termed it as a “direct interference into the religious affairs of people.”
The Srinagar administration had imposed stringent curbs in Srinagar’s Downtown areas, including Mahrajgunj, Safa Kadal, Rainawari, Khanyar and Nowhatta. Restrictions under section 144, which bars assembly of four or more people at a particular place, were also imposed in Maisuma area of uptown Srinagar to foil any protests.
Groups of witnesses said the shutdown call evoked a strong response in southern Pulwama, Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian districts, and also in northern Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora districts. However, they said, inter-district private and public transport plied normally.
Leaders and activists of the JRL staged protests in various parts of Srinagar. Scores of JKLF leaders and activists, soon after Friday prayers, took out a rally at Maisuma.
The rally, according to a JKLF spokesman, was led by Noor Muhammad Kalwal and Sheikh Abdur Rashid, while dozens of other leaders and activists participated in it.
The protestors carried placards which read: ‘NIA raids not justified’, ‘PSA on leaders unacceptable’.
Another protest was held in Lal Bazar area, which was led by Muhammad Shafi Khan of the Awami Action Committee (AAC). Several leaders and activists also staged a protest outside a masjid at Hyderpora and strongly condemned the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, arrest spree, slapping of PSA on leaders, shifting of prisoners to outside J&K jails, NIA raids and disallowing prayers at Jamia Masjid.
Meanwhile, Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani continued to remain confined to his Hyderpora residence, while Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was placed under arrest at his Nigeen residence Thursday and not allowed to address Friday gathering at Jamia Masjid.
Yasin Malik, who was booked under Public Safety Act on Thursday, has been lodged in a solitary confinement in Kotbalwal jail in Jammu, a Front spokesman said.