Valley erupts over Moharram restrictions

Life in most parts of Srinagar city was thrown out of gear on December 17 as authorities’ clamped curfew in areas falling under seven police stations to prohibit ‘Ashura’ (Muharram) procession. Ashura marks martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) grandson, Imam Hussain and his companions in the battle at Karbala, nearly 1400 years ago. The day is commemorated on 10th of Muharram, the first month of Islamic calendar.

Curfew was imposed in areas falling under police stations; Safakadal, Maharaj gunj, Khanyar, Nowhatta, Maisuma, Kralkhud and Kothibagh. Historic Jamia Masjid and its adjoining areas in the old city were also cordoned and congregation prayers couldn’t be offered at Jamia.

Police had raided Mirwaiz Manzil at Rajouri Kadal on December 16 and had taken chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M), Mirwaiz Umar to his Nageen residence on the outskirts of city and placed him under house arrest. Many activists of Hurriyat and Awami Action Committee (AAC) were also arrested and reportedly lodged in various police stations across the city.

Supporters of Mirwaiz had staged nocturnal protests before police raided Mirwaiz Manzil. Pertinently, Mirwaiz had shifted his base from Nageen to Rajouri Kadal on December 15 to ensure that he was able to offer congregational prayers at Jamia Masjid on December 17. He had also urged people to defy curfew and restrictions and offer Friday prayers at Jamia.

Police spokesman, however, said authorities had placed curfew restrictions under section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code in areas falling under seven police stations of city. “Curfew period in these areas passed off peacefully. Friday prayers also concluded peacefully throughout the valley”. The spokesman added that Muharram processions were taken out in various parts of north Kashmir. Mourners assembled at Zadibal in Srinagar and recited Nowha and Marsiya to pay accolades to martyrs of Karbala. Later, the procession culminated into ‘Majlis-e-Shaam-e-Gareebaan’ at historic Imambara at Zadibal Alamgari Bazar. Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Muhammad Yasin Malik, addressed mourners. Reports of Zuljinah and Alam processions were received from all the districts of the valley.

Carrying religious banners and beating themselves with chains, mourners at Jehangir chowk in city-centre tried to take out a procession. As police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) intercepted, mourners offered stiff resistance leading to clashes between the two. Later, security forces used batons and lobbed teargas canisters to disperse them. Two mourners were injured in the action. The mourners were led by a separatist leader, Nisar Hussain Rather from Hurriyat Conference (G).

Mourners also defied curfew near Regal Chowk and took out a procession. They were however, chased away by police. Spools of barbed wires were laid at several places in the city to prohibit the processions.

Meanwhile, clashes between protesters and security forces broke out in north Kashmir’s Baramulla, Sopore and Pattan town after death of a youth, Zahoor Ahmad Dar on December 7. Several youth took to streets, raised slogans and staged protests. The protesters were later chased away by security forces. Heavy deployment of police and CRPF was made in certain sensitive areas of these towns. Dar, 27, succumbed to his injuries in a hospital here on December 7. His family alleged that he was beaten by the security forces at Cement Bridge in Baramulla in October this year while he was on his way to home. Police however, said that the youth passed away due to some ailment.

Arrest of two boys on alleged charges of stone pelting sparked off protests in Khanpora- Baramulla on December 12. Two youth, Uneeb-ul-Usman, 11, and Aqib Ahmad, 15, were arrested by police at Khanpora. Soon after arrests, people took to streets and staged protest demonstrations. Police resorted to teargas shelling to disperse them. Alleging that their sons were ‘innocent’ family members of arrested youths said “informers of police got our children arrested and later demanded hefty ransom for their releases”. Army on December 8 thrashed civilians and allegedly enforced shutdown in Pattan market to mourn the death of a captain killed in an encounter in Sopore town of Baramulla district. Reports and eyewitnesses said a party of Army’s 29 RR led by a major appeared at the main market Pattan and thrashed several people. The Army, eyewitnesses said that the mob was angry over death of a captain in an encounter with the militants in neighbouring Sopore town.

At least seven people, including two CRPF personnel were injured in a grenade blast that was hurled by militants towards mobile bunker of CRPF 182 Batallion at Rajpora chowk in south Kashmirs’ Pulwama.

Another grenade was hurled by the militants towards 185 Bn CRPF bunker at Tral bus stand in south Kashmir on December 18. The grenade didn’t explode. Later, Bomb Disposal Squad defused it without causing any damage. In another incident, Owais Bashir, 10, received minor injuries when an explosive material exploded while he was fiddling with it at Sogam-Kupwara. A militant and an army officer were killed in an encounter at Sopore on December 8. Encounter between militants and a joint team of 22 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) and Special Operations Group (SOG) of police started on December 7 that was later suspended during the night. An Army captain, Abhimanyu and a militant were killed in the encounter.

In another encounter that took place on December 10 between a militant and security forces in Ganderbal district of central Kashmir, a policeman sustained injuries. According to a police spokesman a militant, Mushtaq Ahmad Khan of Hizbul Mujahideen was hiding in the house. Following a tip-off regarding presence of Khan alias Jangi, a joint team of police and army cordoned the area and started combing operations. “In turn, the militant opened heavy fire on them. The militant, a local resident, is active in the area”. Authorities on December 14 booked senior leader of Hurriyat Conference (G), Masrat Alam and Abdul Hameed Magray under Public Safety Act (PSA). After slapping PSA authorities shifted Alam to Udhampur jail and Magray to Kot Bhalwal jail. A delegation of Swaraj Peeth Trust, Gandhian center for non-violence and peace called on the chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at his Nageen residence on December 13. Mirwaiz urged the group to press government of India to safeguard human rights of Kashmiris and take steps to resolve Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of people.

Meanwhile, Commission of Inquiry (CoI) probing killings of 17 civilians in valley since June 11 this year recorded statements of three officials in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district on December 14. Seven out of 17 civilians are from this district.

Justice (retd) Syed Bashiruddin Ahmad who heads the two-man Commission recorded statement of three civil and police officials. An enquiry conducted by a local court here on December 7 into killing of Wamiq Farooq, 13, has indicted police for killing a teenager “without any provocation” in old city early this year. Wamiq, a resident of Rainawari was killed when police allegedly fired a tear smoke shell at him in Rajouri Kadal area of old city on January 31.

“As per the statements of witnesses, it has been observed that the situation in the area on the day of occurrence was normal and everybody was involved in normal activities,” Special Judicial Mobile Magistrate PT&E Srinagar, who was directed to probe the incident by Chief Judicial Magistrate, has said in the report submitted to the court, adding “Around 4 to 5 PM (on January 31 this year), a white gypsy from police station Nowhatta arrived on the spot, carrying some personnel on link road near Gani memorial stadium. One police personnel without any provocation fired a tear smoke shell at a range of 30 feet on Wamiq who was walking on the link road after playing carom with other boys”. Quoting witness, it stated that it has also identified a policeman as Abdul Khaliq.

Taking a serious note of ‘genocide’ remarks by senior BJP leader Ashok Khajuria, Geelani on December 15 said “fascist and communal forces were conspiring with Indian Army to commit widespread extermination of Muslims”. The separatist leader alleged “Indian army is under influence of rightwing parties in India and its top officers are working in tandem with Jan Sangh to change demography of state by carrying out genocide of Muslims on the pattern of 1947”.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2011 on page no. 15

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