Srinagar: Clashes erupted around Srinagar’s Hazratbal shrine on Friday afternoon as security forces in riot gear came in the way of huge crowds marching towards the revered place of worship on the western shore of the Dal Lake.
The security forces fired teargas canisters and exploded stun grenades in the middle of slogan-chanting crowds which emerged of various localities including Lal Bazaar, Sadar Bal, Malla Bagh and Naseem Bagh. Earlier people from many localities converged in an open field at Malla Bagh to offer Juma Namaz after the weekly congregational prayers were cancelled at locality mosques.
Soon after the prayers, they while chanting pro-freedom slogans marched towards Hazratbal but were intercepted by the riot police midway. J&K police and CRPF reinforcements arrived at the scene and fired dozens of teargas canisters and also exploded stun grenades to push the crowds back. Amid loud sounds, the acrid tear smoke was ubiquitous as this correspondent was caught in the mêlée.
Similar clashes have been reported also from some other parts of the summer capital as people are making concerted efforts to relocate to Hazratbal in response to a call issued by an alliance of separatist parties as part of its extended calendar of protests and shutdowns.
Protests were held and/or clashes took place between security forces and slogan-chanting surging crowds also in Sopore, Bandipore, Imam Sahib, Tral, Langaet, Hajin and over a dozen other places within the Valley and in Jammu region in Banihal and Surankore areas, leaving scores injured, police sources here said.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were earlier arrested by police after they came out of their besieged houses in Srinagar’s Hyderpora and Nigeen areas respectively and began walking towards Hazratbal.
In order to foil the ‘Hazratbal Chalo’ call, the authorities clamped curfew across the Valley and fanned out police and paramilitary reinforcements at dawn to enforce the restrictions strictly. The roads leading to Hazratbal area were sealed by laying Concertina razor wire and placing ‘bunker’ vehicles in their middle. Friday congregational prayers were not allowed at Hazratbal and, on the fourth consecutive time, at Srinagar's historic Grand Mosque.
The Valley is on the boil since July 8 when security forces killed Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a top Internet-savvy commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahedin. During the four-week-old unrest more than fifty protesters and two policemen have been killed.
As the unrest has spread to some Muslim-majority areas of Jammu with shutdowns and protest demonstrations being held in Banihal, Doda, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar and Rajouri towns, the authorities on Friday suspended Internet services available on mobile phones and through dongles in the region....