Clashes Erupt In Jammu And Kashmir, 30 Injured

17 April 2015
The Asian Age
Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar: More than thirty people, most of them police personnel, were injured as parts of Srinagar and Tral, a township about 42 kilometres south of Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital, erupted again on Friday afternoon when irate crowds clashed with the riot police at several places, forcing the latter to fire warning shots and teargas canisters and swing bamboo sticks. Srinagar's Nowhatta area witnessed ding-dong streets battles between stone-hurling youth and the police for hours after the Friday congregation at the nearby Grand Mosque. The police used force including tear-smoke canisters to push the surging crowds back, but in vain, witnesses said. A police statement said that 21 of its men, including a station house officer, and three civilians were injured in the clashes reported from Nowhatta, Gojwara, Malarata and Khawaja Bazaar areas of the city. 'However, the situation by and large remained peaceful in the Valley,' it said. Earlier Kashmir's chief Muslim cleric and chairman of his faction of the Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led a protest procession within the premises of the Jama Masjid against the killing of a local youth by the Army during an operations against militants in Tral's Kamla Woods on April 13 and other alleged human rights violations by the security forces. He termed the youth's killing as an 'extrajudicial murder' and demanded immediate revocation of AFSPA and other 'draconian laws', release of political prisoners, and bringing to justice the Army personnel involved in the killing of the Tral youth. Before the rally, while delivering customary weekly sermon from the rostrum of Jama Masjid, the Mr Farooq said the claims of government's 'zero tolerance' towards human rights violations have proven to be an utter lie. He accused the PDP of 'kneeling before BJP's 'extremist agenda on Kashmir'. Tral and its neighbourhood has been on the boil since April 13 when Army during a reported operation against militants in the region's Kamla woods killed a 24-year-old student Khalid Muzaffar Wani whom it termed as 'overground worker' of Hizb-ul-Mujahedin outfit. But while police denied it saying he was a civilian not involved in any militant activities, the slain youth's family and neighbours had alleged that he was tortured to death in Army custody as he had reportedly gone to the forest area to meet his brother Burhan Wani, the south Kasdhmir commander of the Hizb. The killing of a militant of the outfit identified as Younus during the Army operation was also claimed to be an 'extrajudicial murder' resulting in the flare up. The Army had said they the duo was killed in an exchange of fire between it and the militants. Amid widespread protests and violent clashes, the authorities had imposed curfew-like restrictions on Tral and some neighbouring villages which continued on Friday. Also, all roads leading to Tral and other entry and exit points were sealed by police and CRPF reinforcements at dawn on Friday ahead of a rally planned by separatists. Syed Ali Shah Geelani had given a 'Tral Chaloo' call but was along with several other separatist leaders and activists placed under house arrest in Srinagar and elsewhere on Thursday night to prevent them from relocating to Tral. Reports from Tral said that soon after the Friday congregations at local mosques and hospices, people came out on the streets to chant pro-freedom slogans. Soon they clashed with police which fired rife shots over their heads and also burst teargas canisters as cane-charge failed to yield desired result. Witnesses said that irate youth in the crowds started pelting rocks and other missiles on the police and CRPF personnel. The ding-dong streets battles continued till reporters last came in. 'Already, some people have been injured. I also saw a couple of policemen being removed from a scene of clashes in injured condition,' a local reporter said over the phone from Tral. Reports also said that several separatist second-rung leaders and activists who had managed to reach Tral addressed people at the town's Khankah-i-Faiz Panah during the Friday congregation. 'After the prayers, people began marching towards the home of slain youth Khalid Wani but when the procession reached the Gole Masjid area armed policemen and CRPF personnel came in their way and used force to disperse them which led to the clashes,' a resident said. Meanwhile, Syed Geelani has called for a shutdown in Kashmir Valley on Saturday to protest against what he alleged was 'cold - blooded' murder of Tral youth. He also condemned Massarat Aalam Bhat's arrest and placing him and others under house arrest saying the move was 'unjustified and inhuman'. Several separatist outfits and like-minded groups have endorsed the strike call