Srinagar, June 20 (Calcutta Tube) Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar was on the boil Sunday after security forces shot dead one more youth, triggering frenzied protests that left at least 20 people, including seven security personnel, injured in widespread clashes throughout the day.
Outnumbered police and paramilitary personnel used tear gas and batons as they struggled to keep at bay stone-pelting mobs that vented their fury during demonstrations sparked by the overnight death of another young man injured in a clash a week earlier.
Javaid Ahmad Malla, 26, was shot Sunday by security forces after a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) post in Noorbagh area of the city came under attack by a sea of angry young men.
Fearing they would be overrun, the security forces opened fire. A police officer initially claimed that gunshots were fired in the air. Five others were injured.
The incident took place when a mammoth crowd of marchers carrying the body of Muhammad Rafiq Bangroo, who succumbed late Saturday to his injuries suffered a week earlier, clashed with security forces.
At that time, the protests were confined to Noorbagh, a maze of lanes and bylanes in the city’s interior. But once Malla got killed in the firing Sunday, there was a volcanic eruption of anger.
In no time, young men poured out of their homes in many parts of Srinagar attacking police and paramilitary troopers with stones and rocks — which have become favourite weapons during street protests.
Clashes quickly spread to Maisuma, Nowhatta, Gojwara, Nowgam, Nowshera, Qamarwari and Rainawari areas, all of which are well known as strongholds of separatist groups seeking to end Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir.
Defying restrictions on assembly of people, scores of youths took to the streets in Safa Kadal area. Police fired gunshots in the air.
Srinagar quickly looked like a garrison town, with most people confining themselves indoors. Private and public traffic went off the streets, while shops and businesses downed their shutters.
In a bid to nip the trouble from spreading outside Srinagar, hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was taken into custody in Kupwara district in the north while he was proceeding to the city.
Also detained with him was his top aide, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai.
Stunned by the mass mobilization, the Jammu and Kashmir government ordered the removal of Srinagar district police chief Riyaz Bedar and replaced him with Ashiq Bukhari.
But so intense was the anger on the streets that both hardline and moderate groups of the Hurriyat Conference as well as the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) called for a shutdown across the Kashmir Valley Monday.
All school exams scheduled for Monday have been cancelled in the valley.
Parts of Srinagar, the urban hub of the dragging separatist campaign that has claimed thousands of lives since 1989, have increasingly become a battleground between security forces and young men overtly sympathetic to the separatist cause.