Kashmir Observes Strike To Remember Maqbool11 February 2011
Srinagar: Shops and businesses remained mostly closed and public transport off the roads on Friday as Kashmir observed a strike on the call of the JKLF to mark the anniversary of the execution of its founder, Muhammad Maqbool Bhat, in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail over two-and-a-half decades ago. Maqbool’s hometown of Trehgam in the frontier district of Kupwara in north Kashmir witnessed rallies and demonstrations to pay homage to a revered son of the soil and to demand the return of his mortal remains. Over a dozen people, including CID and uniformed personnel, were injured as clashes broke out between protestors and the police and the paramilitary forces in Maisuma, Batmalu, Bandipur and Baramulla. The JKLF strike, which had been backed by other separatist groups including the Hurriyat (G), disrupted normal life across Kashmir, where major commercial centres in the summer capital and outlying towns remained shuttered and commuter traffic suspended. In Srinagar, clashes broke out in the city centre after Friday prayers as JKLF marchers led by vice-chairman Bashir Ahmad Bhat demanding the return of Maqbool’s mortal remains from Tihar were sought to be broken up by a police lathi charge. The procession turned violent at the use of force, and began pelting stones at the police and the paramilitary men, leading to intermittent clashes. The trouble intensified at reports of the JKLF chief Muhammad Yasin Malik having been attacked by BJP activists in Ajmer, with a large number of youth pouring out into the streets chanting slogans and launching renewed stone-pelting attacks on the police and the paramilitary forces. Several policemen were reported to have been injured in the onslaught, and the forces resorted to heavy tear gas shelling to quell the violent crowds, the ensuing street battles continuing for several hours. Earlier in the day, leaders and activists of another JKLF faction led by Javed Ahmad Mir where arrested by the police when they tried to march in the city centre demanding freedom and the return of Maqbool’s mortal remains to Kashmir. A similar procession by the Democratic Liberation Party too was broken up and several of its leaders and activists taken into custody. Prolonged clashes also broke out in the Rek Chowk quarter of Batmalu in upper Srinagar where groups of youth marching for freedom retaliated with stones after the police tried to break up their procession with cane charges. The police and the paramilitary forces came under fierce stone-pelting attacks in the Cement Bridge area of Baramulla as well, the ensuing street battles later spreading to the town’s main square and the tehsil chowk. The authorities responded by sending in more police and paramilitary men, and the town’s trouble prone areas resounded with tear gas blasts and clashes till late in the day. Maqbool’s native town of Trehgam held demonstrations and rallies to honour the JKLF founder, and thousands of residents joined the Front’s signature campaign demanding the return of his mortal remains from Delhi.