Sheikh Imran Bashir
Srinagar: Curfew has been relaxed in selected areas of Kashmir on Friday evening to allow for Friday prayers on the occasion of Shab-e-Mehraj.
Protests against the killing of civilians erupted in many parts across the valley on Friday even as Kashmir continued to remain in the grip of a strict curfew for the third day running on the eve of Meraj Aalam, one of the holiest occasions in the Islamic calendar.
Curfew was relaxed indefinitely in the Kashmir Valley Friday evening, an official said.
The Union Home Secretary G K Pillai has said that curfew has been lifted from the Kashmir Valley from Friday evening onwards.
“Curfew has been relaxed in wake of a festival at Hazratbal Shrine. Relaxation will continue till Saturday evening,” Pillai told state-run Doordarshan Kendra.
The curfew was relaxed in all parts of the Kashmir Valley from 8 p.m. onwards, the official added.
The head cleric of Srinagar had Friday appealed to the state government to relax the curfew so that people could observe the Shab-e-Meraj religious festival.
Mufti Azaam Bashir-ud-Din also appealed to the people to perform their religious duties connected with Shab-e-Meraj (anniversary of the night-time ascension of Prophet to heaven from Jerusalem and marked by visits to graves of family and friends to pray for their souls) peacefully.
The move, claimed by TV media, comes hours after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah held a meeting of senior police officials and bureaucrats and was closeted with senior ministers of his cabinet to take stock of the situation.
But states main opposition PDP today decided to stay away from the all-party meeting called by Omar Abdullah government on Monday to discuss the present situation in Kashmir valley dubbing it as a “purposeless exercise”. “PDP is unable to appreciate the purpose of calling a meeting of political parties at this juncture. We see no merit in it and therefore would want to be excused out of this purposeless exercise”, the party said.
The invitation was extended to all 12 recognised political parties and groups by Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammed Sagar, an official spokesman said.
These parties and groups include National Conference, Indian National Congress, PDP, BJP, Panthers Party, CPI-M, CPI, Peoples Democratic Forum, Democratic Party (Nationalist) Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Nationalist Congress Party.
A similar notice was issued by the Minister today in respect of the meeting of MLAs and MLCs of coalition partners on July 11, the spokesman said.
However, PDP sent a reply saying the “meeting notice” has many “loopholes even as the format of the notice leaves much to be desired in terms of etiquette and the purpose of meeting…”
“….The notice surprisingly doesn’t make any mention of the agenda for the meeting,” a reply signed by Naeem Akhthar of PDP to Sagar said.
PDP pointed out that its patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had earlier demanded a special session of the state assembly to discuss the “alienation” and human rights violations.
“The suggestion was rejected with a degree of contempt by the Chief Minister (Omar Abdullah) as having no merit in it,” it said.
Highlighting a few other incidents of violence, PDP accused the government of being non-serious.
Meanwhile, curfew remained in place for the fourth consecutive day today in the Valley with some relaxation to allow people to offer Friday prayers as militants struck at three places in Sopore in North Kashmir, leaving two policemen injured.
Simultaneously, Jammu and Kashmir police cracked down on stone pelters during the night and today as well and arrested nearly two dozen people which included Mehraj-ud-din Bhat, Mohammed Ashraf Laya and Yusuf Mujahid — all activists of Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
The three were charged with instigating mobs to turn violent.
However, there were sporadic clashes in Tregham in Kupwara, old Baramulla town and in Dalgate which was brought under control by a mild cane-charging by the police.
Newspapers failed to hit the stands for the second day today in the Valley in the wake of the restrictions.
The authorities, however, lifted restrictions on the movement of media persons in the wake of curfew in Srinagar and certain other parts of the valley and issued fresh curfew passes to them.
But Kashmir based newspapers suspend their publication, Media bodies say government is lying, gag is still continues.
A renowned journalist (Name quiet on the request) told Agence India Press that, what exactly government trying to hide to the people by gag on media.
“This happened many times during Kargil war also when local media was denied access to the information and media crews were brought from Delhi to cover the situation, he said.
But the media persons from outside state are free to visit any locale and cover all the events,” he added.
Their should be a similar rule for both media, either from state or outside state, why authority play step mother role with local media, he further said.
He said, we know that government is supporting Delhi based Journalists or media, because it is obviously they just hide the things and the present situation of Kashmir, in real manner Delhi media is a puppet for the state government.
Editors of Valley based newspapers on Friday ridiculed the government claim that it had lifted curbs on the local media. They decided to suspend the publication of newspapers till authorities issue sufficient number of curfew passes for the staff members and distributors.
“Earlier the government used to impose undeclared curfew now it has imposed undeclared ban on the media,” said, noted cartoonist and the Managing Editor of leading Urdu daily Srinagar Times.
He said that in the morning various Valley based newspapers received phone calls from the state’s Information department that local dailies can resume publication and they can collect new curfew passes but they remained non committal about the number of passes to be issued. “All the newspaper offices were sent handful of passes. Newspaper office is an industry and editor only cannot run it. We need passes for reporters, sub-editors, layout designers, hawkers and distributors. Few passes won’t serve any purpose,” he added.
Bashir said that Editors of various local dailies deliberated upon the issue and they unanimously decided to suspend the publication of newspapers till sufficient numbers of passes are issued. “We also want to seek the assurance from the government that distributors and hawkers will be allowed to distribute the newspapers,” he added.
Meanwhile, police on Friday beat up a senior journalist, Riyaz Masroor, working with the Urdu service of BBC, outside his Alocha Bagh residence here.
“I received a phone call from the Information department this morning asking me to come and collect the fresh curfew passes. As soon as I reached near the main road, policemen stopped me and beat me up ruthlessly,” he said.
He said he has received multiple injuries and his left arm has been fractured in the assault.
Even as curfew, two police cops were injured in two separate attacks by militants in curfew-bound Sopore town, while an indefinite curfew continued in Srinagar and other major towns of the Kashmir Valley on Friday, police said.
The first incident took place at 0030 hours when suspected militants hurled three grenades at a police convoy in the outskirts of Sopore, they said.
The second incident took place at 0130 hours at main Sopore crossing in which left a trooper of Indian Reserve police was injured.
The third incident took place on Sopore-Baramulla road on 0230 hours when suspected militants fired upon police vehicles, leaving one of the drivers injured, police added.
“Both have been shifted to hospital and doctors say they are out of danger,” he added.
In other incident nearly twenty persons, including 12 policemen, were injured on Friday afternoon, as security forces opened fire on a mob which hit the streets defying curfew and allegedly hurled stones at a police post and a security camp in Kakapora area of Pulwama district of South Kashmir.
The trouble started shortly after Friday prayers when people, defying curfew, came out on the roads in the town, official sources said.
The police and security forces prevented them, which further angered the protestors who then pelted a police post and a nearby security camp with stones.
The security forces lobbed teargas shells to disperse the angry protestors but when the mob did not relent, they opened fire, injuring eight protestors who were later admitted to a nearby hospital.
Police said 12 of their men, including a DSP and a Duty Officer (DO) Kakapora were injured in the incident.
In view of the curfew, Friday prayers could not be offered in major mosques and shrines across the valley.
In Srinagar, Jamia Masjid and Hazratbal were among dozens of grand mosques where people were barred from offering Friday congregational prayers.
Paramilitary forces and police blockaded all roads leading to Nowhatta grand mosque with concertina razor wires and mobile bunkers.
Local residents told Agence India Press over phone that, troops manning roads in Nowhatta barred “us from coming on the main street.”
“Even those going to mosque, falling on the main roads across the area were not allowed to offer prayers,” a local said.
Friday had been marked by Hurriyat (G) for congregational weekly prayers at centrally-located spots in all areas of the valley.
In Hazratbal shrine, where lakhs of worshippers usually throng on a normal Friday, no congregational prayer was allowed.
Eyewitness said worshipper who had turned up from neighbouring localities were beaten up and forced to stay away from the premises.
Scores of worshippers also assembled outside the premises and raised anti-India and pro-Kashmir slogans.
Police, however, cane-charged the protesters till they dispersed.
In this regard, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led Hurriyat Conference strongly denounced the administration’s move to not allow Friday congregational prayers at Jamia Masjid and Hazratbal.
“A martial law has been imposed in Kashmir. For the second consecutive Friday people couldn’t offer prayers at Jamia Masjid and other major mosques. The authorities didn’t even allow people to participate in the revered Meraj-e- Alam celebrations and devotees were ruthlessly baton charged at the Hazratbal shrine. India has declared a war on people by usurping their basic human, religious and political rights and handed them over to the army,” Mirwaiz said in a statement issued here.
The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front also condemned the imposition of restrictions on people and termed the “government policy” of disallowing people from offering Friday prayers as a brazen interference in religious affairs.
“The authorities crossed every level of oppression and barbarism by using brute force against devotees and desecrating the Hazratbal Shrine,” JKLF vice chairman Advocate Bahsir Ahmad Bhat said.
Bhat also condemned the “harassment” of people offering Friday prayers at Jamiat-Ahl-Hadees Mosque at Gow Kadal and the indiscriminate beating of locals. “For the past few weeks, Kashmir has been turned into a concentration camp with curfews and imposition of other restrictions. It seems the entire population is being punished collectively for demanding freedom,” he said.
The Jammu and Kashmir Oil Tankers Association has once again suspended fuel supply to Valley alleging attacks on tanker drivers by some miscreants on Srinagar-Jammu highway.
The Association, held an emergency meeting here on Friday, to discuss the security concerns shown by the drivers plying their vehicle on the route, Anand Sharma, president of the Association said.
He said that despite assurances by the government, some of the drivers were attacked by unidentified persons near Sumbal on Wednesday. “We have decided not to ply our vehicles on the route till situation improves”, he added.
Hundreds of Kashmir-bound fuel tankers, which were scheduled to leave for the valley today, were stranded at oil depots in Jammu.
Pertinently this is the second time during the last few days that the Association has suspended the fuel supply to Valley.
The association demanded security from the government to resume supplies.
This is the third time since 2008 that fuel supplies have been suspended. Earlier, they were suspended during the Amarnath land row agitation, when truckers and tanker drivers came under attack in the valley.
On June 30 the Association had announced indefinite strike after some drivers were allegedly injured in stone-pelting. However, the call was withdrawn on the same day after assurances and payment of compensation from the state government.