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'Cops fired in the air, we ran for cover'

india Updated: Jun 28, 2010 23:16 IST
Waseem Andrabi

As I rode my motorcycle with a journalist friend on the picturesque Nigeen road on Monday morning, near Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's home, I thought the authorities might have clamped curfew in the old city to prevent the separatist leader's march.

But to my surprise all roads were open.

I reached Rajouri Kadal in downtown Srinagar, from where Umar's procession was supposed to start.

I left my bike at a friend's place and decided to go on foot. Not more than 200 youngsters had gathered at Rajouri Kadal chowk. They started the march with no one leading them as the Mirwaiz was under house arrest. There were no CRPF men on road.

The protesters' limited numbers did not dampen their enthusiasm. They screamed "we want freedom" and "go India go".

As the group marched through the old city roads, men — young and old — joined them. A few women walked along for some distance, too. Rajouri Kadal, Kawdara, Safa Kadal…after walking 6 km, the group had swelled to around 6,000 at Qamarwari. People offered water and soft drinks to the marchers.

My mind flashed back to the 2008 Amarnath land agitation, when lakhs of people marched on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road.

As Monday's marchers reached the city's outskirts at Hokarsar, they numbered around 10,000.

At Hokarsar, they were greeted by barricades and police personnel in riot gear. As they tried to march ahead, the police fired tear gas shells.

The protesters hurled stones at the police.

Policemen fired bullets in the air. Everyone ran to take cover. I and some other photojournalists dashed into a house.

When we came out of the house, some youngsters stopped us.

"What kind of journalists are you? You don't show anything. People are being killed and nobody outside seems to care," they yelled. They manhandled a colleague.

We somehow managed to leave the area.

(Waseem Andrabi is an HT photojournalist)