Observer News Service
Srinagar, Nov 27: North Kashmir areas on Tuesday erupted in anger and outrage, with thousands of people blocking key highways with demonstrations and stone-pelting after purportedly US-made footwear sold in a local store was found bearing holy names.
The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Highway was said to have witnessed the worst logjam in living memory as infuriated residents held up traffic for the entire day, forcing vehicles into village links and tracks.
The police was reported to have impounded the offending pair of shoes, and taken the shop owner into custody for questioning, even as the deputy commissioner for Baramulla ordered an investigation.
Trouble had been brewing since Monday evening after a local resident purchased a pair of shoes from a store in the Magam town.
According to reports, as the customer was looking over the footwear, said to have been manufactured by a US company, he found holy names inscribed on it in English.
Reports from the area said that the words inscribed spelt as Hazrat Ali (AS).
As news spread this morning, thousands of people in a number of places, including Magam, Mir Gund, Narbal, Hanjiwera, Kakpora, Marchipora, Divar, Baliharan and other areas swarmed over the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad, the Srinagar-Gulmarg and the Pattan-Gulmarg highways, cutting off traffic with protests amid anti-US and anti-Israel slogans.
Demonstrators pelted stones on vehicles at several places on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route.
With three key highways blocked simultaneously, North Kashmir witnessed its worst traffic gridlock in living memory as thousands of vehicles were held up on both sides of the massive pickets.
Surrounding villages witnessed chaos as motorists dived into narrow tracks and lanes, for a way out to their destinations, bumping and colliding with other vehicles.
The protestors demanded that state authorities take action against the shoe company responsible for the sacrilege.
The demonstrators refused to budge as district authorities repeatedly pleaded for them to allow traffic to pass, the blockades stretching into several hours.
Police and civil authorities were able to clear the roads at some places only late in the afternoon, easing the jam.
Paramilitary forces have been deployed in strength at several points along the routes to prevent a flare-up.
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