Eid Congregations Turn Into Pro-Palestine Rallies

29 July 2014
The Hindustan Times
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: Several congregations to mark the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, a festival marking the end of the Islamic month of Ramzan, turned into pro-Palestine rallies in Kashmir valley on Tuesday, forcing security forces to use tear-smoke shells. The biggest rally was held at Srinagar's Eidgah ground, spread over several acres, where hundreds of people raised Palestinian flags after the Eid prayers and raised anti-Israel slogans in the wake of an Israeli onslaught on Gaza that has left at least 1,100 Palestinians dead. Security forces, deployed in large numbers, disallowed the procession and used tear-smoke shells. Fearing violent rallies, authorities had placed most top separatist leaders, such as moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, hardline Hurriyat's Syed Ali Geelani, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik and Shabir Ahmad Shah, under house arrest. Earlier in the day, Mirwaiz, who was scheduled to lead, made a speech at Eidgah grounds over the phone. 'We demand an end to massacre of Palestinians. We stand by our Palestinian brethren,' said Mirwaiz over phone. His message was reciprocated by pro-Gaza slogans from devotees. Separatists had asked people to observe the festival with all austerity following huge civilian casualty in Gaza and declared it as 'Palestinian Solidarity Day'. Sources said security forces were issued standing directions not to allow congregations to spill onto the streets and convert into rallies. Security forces burst several tear-smoke shells in the city's Lal Chowk, Humhama, Hyderpora areas to stop the pro-Palestine rallies. Protesters also hurled stones at security forces sparking clashes. At least three men received minor injuries. However, Srinagar's another biggest congregation at Hazratbal shrine, where chief minister Omar Abdullah offered prayers, remained peaceful. Although, special prayers were said for Gaza and those killed there. Violent protests were also reported from parts of north Kashmir's Baramulla, Sopore and Bandipora districts after Eid prayers. Protesters on motorcycles unfurled Palestinian flags and rode through the roads of Bandipora. Force was used there too to contain the situation. In south Kashmir, there were violent clashes and pro-Palestine rallies were held in parts of Pulwama, Anantnag and Shopian districts. Security forces had a tough time controlling the situation. Kashmir has been on the edge since the last two weeks. Violent pro-Gaza protests have left one dead and dozens injured across the valley. Netizens on social networking sites too have joined the protests by posting gory images from Gaza as their display pictures. Several caricatures lampooning Israel were also posted. Images from Gaza doing the rounds on the social networking sites have significantly contributed in fuelling the anger in the valley. 'Why the world powers are silent to this genocide and modern-day holocaust. Images of dead children fails to move a single soul,' wrote Gazanfer Ahmad on a social networking site.