Clashes in several areas | Curfew-like restrictions across Valley | JKLF chief Yasin Malik arrested | KU postpones exams | Restrictions to continue today, says IGP
Massive clashes rocked parts of Kashmir on Sunday amid complete Valley-wide shutdown and curbs imposed by police and paramilitary forces to prevent protests over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat and his associate Faizan in southern Tral area on Saturday. Police also arrested the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik and took him to Central Jail Srinagar on a five-day remand.
Police imposed strict restrictions in South Kashmir areas on Sunday to thwart pro-freedom protests, but clashes between government forces and protesters erupted in many areas. The forces had sealed all roads leading to Tral at Sangam and Awantipora to stop people from marching towards Rathsuna, the native village of slain Hizb commander Sabzar.
Locals said people who attempted to march towards Tral were beaten up by forces. Protests however broke out in several Tral villages after Sabzar was laid to rest. Strict restrictions were put in place in major and small towns of south Kashmir including Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam, Awantipora, Pampore, Kakpora, Bijbehara and Mattan.
Locals said army was also deployed at several places on Srinagar-Jammu highway including Sangam, Awantipora and Bijbehara. However, clashes broke out between youth and forces in Tahab village of Pulwama.
Clashes erupted in old town localities of Anantnag including Cheeni Chowk, Janglat Mandi and Sherpora when deployment was being withdrawn in the evening.
“Youth pelted stones on forces who responded with firing teargas, pepper gas and sound shells,” witnesses said. Clashes also broke out at Sangam, Bijbehara and some Shopian areas.
The mobile phone connectivity on both pre-paid and post-paid phones remained suspended on Sunday in south Kashmir, reports said. However, a police official said there was no order for suspension of outgoing calls on post-paid mobiles. “It could have been a network problem,” he claimed.
The mobile internet and outgoing call facility on prepaid phones were suspended across Kashmir on Saturday, hours after Sabzar and his aide Faizan were killed in Saimoh village of Tral. However, this morning, the services of post paid phones were also suspended, locals said.
Meanwhile, district administrations of Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian announced that Section 144 would continue to remain in force “to prevent breach of peace and loss of life in view of the prevailing law and order situation.”
Late evening reports said mild clashes broke out in Tahab and main town Pulwama.
Massive clashes broke out in old Srinagar areas despite curfew imposed in areas falling under eight police stations.
Witnesses said at Nowpora and Safa Kadal, scores of youth offered funeral prayers in-absentia for slain Hizb commander Sabzar Bhat and his aide Faizan , outside Saboor Baba Masjid. They said the youth later tried to march towards martyrs’ graveyard Eidgah, but were stopped by forces who resorted to “indiscriminate” use of teargas shells to push the protesters back.
Clashes also broke out in Nawa Kadal, Sekidafar, Safa Kadal, Cement Kadal, Noorbagh, Qamarwari and other adjoining areas. Clashes broke out in Habba Kadal area when youth in large numbers staged a protest and later hurled stones at a CRPF bunker at old Habba Kadal bridge. The forces responded with teargas shelling, witnesses said. Many elderly people complained of severe chest pain due to thick smoke emanating from firing of ‘pava’ shells by forces. Reports said Ganderbal and Budgam districts observed a complete shutdown.
CURFEW TO STAY IN SRINAGAR
According to District Magistrate Srinagar, “in view of the prevailing law and order situation”, strict restrictions would remain imposed on May 29 (Monday) within the territorial jurisdiction of seven police stations of the district including Khanyar, Nowhatta, Safakadal, M R Gunj, Rainawari, Kralkhud and Maisuma. “It is ordered that all colleges and schools in district Srinagar would also remain closed on May 29,” he said.
Baramulla district observed a complete shutdown on Sunday. All shops remained closed and traffic was off the roads. In Palhallan area, police lobbed scores of teargas shells after youths tried to block the traffic movement on highway during early hours. The protesting youth were later pushed towards the interiors of the town where clashes continued for some time. Reports from other areas of the district which include Rafiabad, Tangmarg, Wagoora, Kreeri, said they witnessed a complete shutdown. In Sopore town, clashes between youth and police were witnessed soon after afternoon prayers ended. According to reports, a group of youths took out a pro-freedom march but was intercepted by police and forces personnel. The police action triggered clashes that continued for several hours.
Funeral prayers in-absentia were held at Ajas after Zuhr prayers in Bandipora. Hundreds of local residents gathered in the lawns of Jamia Masjid Ajas to offer the prayers for slain militants. Later, a protest rally was taken out amid pro-freedom sloganeering.
Witnesses said massive protests rocked Kupwara district where a minor girl identified as Hurmet Abdullah got injured during clashes. She was taken to sub district hospital.
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Range) Muneer Ahmed Khan said situation across Kashmir remained by and large peaceful, except some incidents of stone pelting. “There was no major law and order problem anywhere in Kashmir. Even in the funeral of the Hizb commander Sabzar Bhat, only 4000 people participated and it was a peaceful affair,” he told Greater Kashmir.
“Sunday-like arrangements will remain in force across Kashmir on Monday. Had there been no call for shutdown for Monday, there would have been no restrictions from our side,” the IGP said.
Except for six incidents of stone pelting in Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Sopore, situation across the Valley remained peaceful and under control, a police spokesman said in a statement here.
He said: “In order to create disturbances miscreants assembled on roads and pelted stones on police and security forces deployment and also on the vehicular traffic. In Pulwama, a group of miscreants also pelted stones on 182 CRPF Camp at Tahab. Police and security forces exercised maximum restraint while dealing with the situation at these places and miscreants were chased away. As a precautionary measure, restrictions under section 144 CrPC were imposed in some vulnerable areas to prevent any untoward incident.”
SHUTDOWN IN BANIHAL
A complete shutdown was observed across Banihal in solidarity with the slain Hizb commander Sabzar Bhat. Locals said all commercial and private establishments remained closed while very thin traffic plied on the roads.
In view of concerns expressed by students due to prevailing circumstances, all Kashmir University examinations scheduled to be held on May 29, 2017 (Monday) and May 30, 2017 (Tuesday) are postponed, an official said. Fresh dates for the deferred examinations shall be notified separately, later.
Meanwhile, police on Sunday arrested JKLF chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik and shifted him to Central Jail Srinagar on a five day judicial remand, a JKLF spokesman said in a statement.
He said: “Police and other forces in large numbers cordoned off the residence of JKLF chairman this morning and took him into custody. He was immediately shifted to central jail Srinagar.”
Speaking to media prior to his arrest, the JKLF chairman said he is being arrested because he managed to reach Tral for condolences. “This actually shows the mindset of rulers and their forces who have put a blanket ban even on mournings and condolences,” Malik said.
“On May 27, after hearing the news of crackdown in Tral, JKLF chairman along with senior leader Zahoor Ahmad Butt and others immediately left for Tral and after travelling many miles on foot, managed to reach their destination,” the spokesman said. “After reaching Tral, JKLF chairman first went to Saimoh where Hizb commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat and his associate Faizaan Muzafar were slain and where besides beating and injuring hundreds of innocents, forces damaged many residential houses and other property.”
Malik then reached Rathsuna and participated in the first funeral prayer held for Sabzar. “JKLF chairman met the bereaved family members and expressed solidarity with them. He also addressed a gathering there and paid rich tributes to great martyrs,” the spokesman said. “After visiting Rathsuna, JKLF chairman on foot travelled to Tral Payeen and participated in condolences of Faizan Muzafar. Besides meeting his bereaved family and expressing solidarity with them, JKLF chairman also addressed two separate gatherings and paid homage to martyrs.”