The normal life in Kashmir came to a grinding halt under a shutdown called by chairman of hardline faction of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Geelani on Wednesday.
The strike was called in protest against the dialogue process going on between Mirwaiz Ummer Farooq-led moderate faction of the Hurriyat and government of India and Pakistan. Geelani alleges that India and Pakistan have secretly agreed on status quo on Kashmir and Mirwaiz was supporting them.
He insists that the implementation of UN resolutions is the only solution to the issue of Kashmir. Mirwaiz, who is leaving for Islamabad on Wednesday to hold talks with Pakistani establishment supports Pak President General Parvez Musharaf's demilitarisation and self-rule slogan. He had opposed the strike call and had urged people to ignore it.
Dozens of pro-Geelani youth occupied the streets in capital Srinagar, raising "pro-freedom" slogans since early Wednesday morning. They took out processions in various parts of the capital city and burnt rubber tubes to express their resentment.
Masarat Alalm Bhat, chairman of Muslim League and a close confidant of Geelani, led a procession from Habbakadal to Bohrikadal, the main bastion of Mirwaiz's followers. Masarat described the response to the strike as "peoples' stamp on their stand". "It was a referendum between Mirwaiz and us. People have put their weight behind us," he said.
While all the shops and commercial centres remained closed, transport was also off the road in the city. The functioning in banks, courts and government offices was completely paralysed under the impact of the shutdown.
To the utter surprise of media persons covering the strike, the traders had shut their business at Rajouri Kadal, Nowhatta, Bohri Kadal, Zianakadal, Naidkadal and Nalla Mar road, which are deemed as strong pockets of Mirwaiz's supporters.
Other major towns - Shopian, Pulwama, Anantnag, Bijbihara, Kupwara, Bandipora, Pattan, Sopore, Baramullah, Budgam and Beerwah - also observed shutdown.
Later in the afternoon, supporters of Mirwaiz took out a procession from Mirwaiz Manzil at Rajouri Kadal. Shahidul Islami, a close aide of Mirwaiz, was leading the process, which marched through various streets in the interior city and civil lines area. They raised slogans against Geelani.
The divide between Geelani and Mirwaiz reached a crescendo on Monday when unknown terrorists fired a rifle grenade on Mirwaiz’s house at Nigeen in Srinagar.
The grenade however missed the target, exploding in the compound of a nearby house without causing any damage. Mirwaiz and his supporters alleged that the attack was conduct at the behest of Geelani, a charge strongly denied by the latter.