Strike, stone-pelting disrupt life in Srinagar

A strike and clashes between stone-pelting youngsters and security forces disrupted normal life in Srinagar city on Saturday.

The strike had been called by separatist groups for Srinagar city only to protest against the reported desecration of the central Jamia Masjid in old city by the security forces on Friday. Shops and other business establishments remained closed in Srinagar while public transport was off the roads. The attendance in government offices was also thin, said reports.

Angry youths filled the streets in various localities of the old city since early morning and threw rocks at the police and the paramilitary forces who responded with aerial firing and tear-gas shelling, said reports.  However, nobody was injured in the exchange.

The police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in full riot gear had been deployed in sensitive areas of old city to ensure peace. Eyewitnesses told Deccan Herald the protesters also waved Pakistani and Islamic State (IS) flags during the clashes in the volatile Rajouri Kadal and Nowhatta areas of old city. On Friday, police and paramilitary personnel had reportedly fired several tear-gas shells at devotees gathered to offer congregational prayers inside the Jamia Masjid.

Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is also head priest of Kashmir, was scheduled to lead protests on Saturday against this “desecration”, said his spokesman. “To prevent Mirwaiz from coming out onto the streets, the authorities placed him under house arrest last evening,” he said on Saturday.

Congress veteran and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said he was pained to by the firing of tear-gas shells inside Kashmir's grand mosque.

In a statement, he slammed the police for using “excessive force”, and said: “It speaks of the callousness of the police force, who are at the helm of affairs.” Strongly condemning the tear-gas shelling at Jamia Masjid, the Opposition National Conference (NC) said, “Such ruthlessly suppressive tendencies of the Mufti Sayeed-led government are indicative of the PDP’s growing vengeance against the people of Kashmir, who have unequivocally and unanimously condemned the PDP’s post-election sell-out to the BJP.”

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