Protests, shutdown in Kashmir as truck conductor laid to rest

Protests, shutdown in Kashmir as truck conductor laid to rest

Protesters today clashed with security forces at many places as the truck conductor who died in Udhampur petrol bomb attack was laid to rest amid tight security in the Kashmir Valley, where a shutdown has been called by separatists and other groups.

Curfew-like restrictions were imposed in eight police station areas and separatist leaders put under house arrest in the Valley where protests erupted yesterday after conductor Zahid Ahmed succumbed to injuries at a Delhi hospital.

Rail services were halted in Kashmir from Banaihal belt while traffic on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway was also disrupted due to the protests.

With the situation in the state tense, the Cabinet passed a resolution condemning the October 9 Udhampur petrol bomb attack on the Kashmir-bound truck and "lauded the people of the state for maintaining peace and calm".

Zahid's body, which was brought here from Delhi in a state aircraft, was taken for burial in a large procession by residents of Batengoo, his native village in South Kashmir's Anantnag. He was buried in the ancestral graveyard in the village amidst sloganeering by the mourners, a police official said.

A youth was seen carrying a Pakistani flag during the funeral procession which passed off peacefully as authorities had made stringent security arrangements. The official said the restrictions imposed in Anantnag police station area were eased to allow the people to participate in the funeral.

However, soon after, clashes broke out between protesters and police personnel in Anantnag and some adjoining areas, police said.

Groups of youths started pelting stones at police personnel at Batengoo and some other areas of Anantnag as they were returning from the burial. Police used tear gas shells to disperse the protesters but the clashes were going on till last reports came in, a police official said, adding there were no reports of anyone getting hurt.

The traffic on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway was severely affected due to clashes in Anantnag, which falls on the arterial road connecting the Valley with rest of the country.
Protests also rocked Banihal town of Ramban district during the shutdown today. People burnt tyres and blocked the highway for an hour amid sloganeering. Protests were also held in Kishtwar and Gandoh belts of Chenab Valley.

Normal life was affected in Kashmir Valley due to the strike called by separatists and trade organizations.

Most of the shops, business establishments, petrol pumps and private educational institutions remained closed while government offices and banks witnessed thin attendance, officials said. 

Public transport was off the roads while private cars, cabs and auto-rickshaws plied at some places, officials said.

Kashmir University and Board of School Education postponed all examinations scheduled for today due to the strike.

The strike call was given by almost all the separatist groups including both factions of Hurriyat Conference and supported by various trade organizations and a pandit organization Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS).

Police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed in strength to maintain law and order, an official said.

Ahead of the funeral, movement of people was restricted in Anantnag and Bijbehara police station areas in South Kashmir, a police official said.

Similar strict restrictions were imposed in six police station areas of Srinagar, where protests had broken out yesterday over the death. The affected areas are M R Gunj, Nowhatta, Safa Kadal, Maisuma, Rainawari and Khanyar.

Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and JKDFP leader Shabir Ahmad Shah were among several separatists placed under house arrest

Rail services between Banihal (Ramban district of Jammu region) to Baramulla (Kashsmir Valley) were suspended after protests in Anantnag and Awantipora areas of Valley, Railway officials said said.

This step was taken as a precautionary measure, they said.

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who chaired the Cabinet meeting here, moved the resolution condemning the October 9 incident at Shiv Nagar in Udhampur district.

"The Cabinet adopted the resolution in one voice. Later a two-minute silence was also observed as a mark of respect for the departed soul," an official spokesman said.

The Cabinet also approved ex-gratia relief of Rs five lakh and a government job to the next of the kin of the deceased youth. 

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