Srinagar, Feb. 16: Violent protests broke out at several places in Kashmir today after the Omar Abdullah government lifted curfew from the Valley for the first time after the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Curfew-like restrictions were imposed in some localities of Srinagar’s old city and some other towns after today’s clashes in which security forces lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the stone-pelting mobs, police sources said.
The protests took place as security forces launched a crackdown and arrested 53 alleged “stone throwers, miscreants and trouble mongers”. Police said 15 of them were arrested from Sopore, 13 from Srinagar, eight from Baramulla, eight from Anantnag, three from Pulwama and six from Budgam.
Life remained paralysed across the Valley on the eighth consecutive day today in response to a call by hardline Hurriyat factions to observe shutdown until Sunday to protest Afzal’s execution. Shops, business establishments and educational institutes remained shut. Public transport was off the roads, although private vehicles were seen plying in several places.
An Internet blockade was also lifted last evening, giving respite to many Netizens across the Valley.
The curfew and information blackout was imposed to contain unrest over Afzal’s hanging last Saturday.
On Thursday, the curfew was lifted from much of Kashmir barring Srinagar’s old city and other major towns following an improvement in the situation. It was, however, re-imposed the same evening in view of the separatists’ call for a march to the martyrs’ graveyard in Srinagar on Friday.
The police spokesperson said there were stone pelting incidents at Maisuma, Rajouri Kadal, Gojwara, Bohri Kadal and Chotta Bazar in Srinagar. “Stray incidents of stone pelting were also reported from Anantnag, Baramulla, Sopore and Vilgam in Handwara,” he said.
A BSF assistant sub-inspector, Baldeep Singh, and a civilian, Nisar Ahmad, were injured in these incidents, the police said.
There have been many incidents of violent protests in Kashmir after Afzal’s execution on February 9, leaving three civilians dead and scores injured. But the protests this time have been milder compared to three summer unrests that rocked Kashmir from 2008 to 2010.
Srinagar’s old city today saw clashes between protesters and security forces. The pro-Azaadi protesters tried to march towards Afzal’s empty grave in Eidgah. But police used force to disperse them, leading to clashes that continued for some time.
Pro-Azaadi Netizens flooded social networking sites with anti-India and pro-Afzal posts.