Curbs, Strike Shut Valley Down


No Friday Prayers At Jamia Masjid; Clashes In Trehgam, Kaimoh  

SRINAGAR: Government curbs reinforced an ongoing strike in the Kashmir Valley on Friday when separatist leaders had called for protests to demand the return of the body of Muhammad Afzal Guru who was executed in Delhi nearly two weeks ago 9 in the parliament attack case.  

Friday prayers could not be offered at the central Jamai Masjid here and the imambargah at Budgam along with several major mosques due to restrictions imposed in Srinagar areas and some outlying towns since last night.

Stray clashes were reported from the Mahjoor Nagar area of Srinagar, and the townships of Hajan, Trehgam, Kaimoh, Nagaam and a few other places.

Orders issued under section 144 of the CrPC yesterday evening had banned public movement in 11 police precincts of the summer capital, the entire district of Budgam, and some towns.

District magistrates issuing the orders had said that the step was taken to prevent breach of peace and damage to life and property.

In a statement yesterday, the state police chief defended the use of curbs saying they were an “effective” strategy to avoid casualties which, according to him, are exploited by “anti-social” elements.  

In Srinagar, despite restrictions, devotees surged to the surviving portions of the gutted Hazrat Dastgeer Sahib shrine in Khanyar to pay respects and have a glimpse of the saint’s keepsakes after Friday prayers.

Friday prayers were also offered at the Hazratbal shrine amid the usual hustle-and-bustle in the locality which had not been placed under curbs.

Police and paramilitary deployments had been made in the old city and the Maisuma quarter of the summer capital’s commercial hub to enforce prohibitory orders on pedestrian and vehicular movement.

In restriction-free upper Srinagar and parts of the central city, private cars and locals moved freely, but barbed wire barricades halted movement in Lal Chowk.

Reports said that protests and clashes broke out in the Trehgam town of the frontier Kupwara district when locals were barred from offering Friday prayers at the main mosque.

Violence was also reported from the South Kashmir town of Kaimoh, with police and paramilitary men resorting to aerial firing and heavy tear-gas shelling to break up a large demonstration demanding the body of Muhammad Afzal Guru.

A number of protestors, including three women, were injured in the forces action.

One of the injured women, identified as Rafiqa Banu, had to be shifted to a Srinagar hospital for treatment.

Shops and public transport in the Valley have been closed since Wednesday due to fresh strike-and-protest calls by separatist leaders.

To demand the return of Guru’s body, the chairman of the Hurriyat (G), Syed Ali Shah Geelani, had called for a shutdown on Wednesday, Thursday and post-noon Friday, while the JKLF chief, Muhammad Yaisn Malik had called for a strike on Friday alone.   

Business had resumed in Kashmir this Monday after nine days of curfew and hartal over Guru’s execution on February 9.

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