Shutdown, Protests, Clashes Mark I-Day In Kashmir

15 August 2014
Kashmir Reader
Izhar Nazir Ali

Srinagar: Restrictions were imposed Friday in many parts of this summer capital of Kashmir while rest of the Valley observed a complete shutdown called by pro-freedom groups on India's 68th Independence Day. All shops, government offices, banks, business establishments and petrol pumps here remained closed in wake of the shutdown called by all pro-freedom groups including both factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF against holding of August 15 celebrations in 'disputed Kashmir', reports and eyewitnesses said. Public and private transport was also off on all the major roads and highways across the Valley. Vehicles carrying pro-India politicians and armed forces were only seen plying on the otherwise busy roads in this summer capital. Hundreds of CRPF men and cops guarded the deserted streets, lanes and by lanes to thwart any attempt of people to stage pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations. Donning bulletproof vests and headgear, the forces maintained strict vigil to prevent any untoward incident. Bakshi Stadium, the main venue of I-Day parade was placed under siege with a three tier security to thwart any possible militant attack. All roads leading to the venue were choked by forces with iron barricades, armoured vehicles and concertina wire. Sharpshooters were also monitoring the surroundings from high rise residential houses and commercial buildings adjacent to the venue. The situation was also being constantly monitored through CCTVs. Unprecedented security arrangements were also put in place in the Old City amid fear of pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations on India's 68th Independence Day. A contingent of CRPF and policemen were deployed around Maharaj Gunj, Khanyar, Rainawari, Nowhatta and Safa Kadal areas of the downtown, where curfews-like restrictions were imposed since Friday morning to foil anti-India protests. The historic Jamia Masjid was out of bounds for the devotees, as the forces had blocked all the roads, lanes and by lanes with razor wire. No congregational Friday prayers were offered at the masjid, reports said. The police had also placed under house arrest chairmen of parallel Hurriyat factions Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Geelani and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik at their respective houses. Several leaders were also rounded up by the forces to thwart their attempt to stage anti-India protests. However, despite stringent security measures, clashes broke out in parts of downtown, including Habba Kadal and Maharaj Gunj, reports said. Chanting slogans, youth engaged the forced in pitched battles that continued for some time Violent clashes were also reported from Kulgam and Bandipora districts. In Hajin town of north Kashmir's Bandipora district, at least six people were seriously wounded in post-Friday prayer protests. Reports said groups of youth after offering congregational Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid Hajin took out a rally to protest the alleged excesses of the forces. The protesters alleged that the cops burst teargas canisters in the town, when traders were pulling down the shutters on Thursday night. 'The protesters were intercepted by police at the main chowk. When the protesters offered resistance and tried to break the cordon, the cops used batons and fired teargas canisters to disperse them. This led to stone pelting clashes in the area,' Javed Ahmad, an eyewitness told Kashmir Reader. He said after failing to disperse the protesters with tear smoke shells, the forces used pellet guns, injuring at least five people, one among them seriously. The injured youth identified as Ishfaq Ahmad Parray of Kochak Mohalla was removed to Sumbal hospital for treatment. However, the doctors there referred him to Srinagar for further treatment. A cop, whose identity could not be ascertained, was also injured in the clashes that continued till late evening. Violent protests were also reported from Qaimoh area of Kulgam district in south Kashmir, where a complete shutdown was observed. Reports said groups of youth at main chowk Qaimoh started 'identification parade; of the people, who were going to attend I-Day function at the Degree College. The youth also intercepted a policeman in civvies, and snatched the uniform which he was carrying in a bag. In the meantime, soldiers came and tried to chase away the youth. This led to clashes that continued for several hours. Angry protesters also hurled petrol bomb at police post Qaimoh. However, no one was reported to be injured. Reports of shutdown were also received from Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag districts of south Kashmir.