Eid festivities have taken over Kashmir with heavy rush of shoppers on streets. Amidst the din, there is an odd two-storey building facing a mad rush and long queues: Nowhatta police station in downtown Srinagar.
Families and relatives of more than 73 youth, arrested in the stone-pelting incident of August 27, are grappling with the security forces for the release of their wards.
"My nephew was eagerly waiting for the Eid. He loves to buy new clothes and bakery. He left for prayers last Saturday and was arrested as a protest broke out. Noe, he is not being released," said Zahoor Ahmad, a local shopkeeper, while jostling with relatives of other arrested youth to make way into the Nowhatta police station, guarded by heavy-armed and riot-suit wearing police personnel.
Downtown Srinagar's city centre Nowhatta, which houses historic Jamia Masjid, is a bastion of separatists, mainly supporters of moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Police claimed 300 motorcycle-borne miscreants pelted stones at Nowhatta police station at about 10.30 pm on the occasion of Shaab-i-Qadir (when a nightlong prayers are held) on August 27.
"The miscreants were riding motorcycles and tossed two petrol bombs on police. Six policemen were injured and two of them are in serious condition," claimed a police officer.
However, eyewitnesses' accounts contradict police version.
"Prayers started at 10:30 pm. A group of youth finished prayers by 11:30 and marched on the streets raising pro-freedom slogans. They were confronted by the police, which resulted in a clash. Suddenly, the police started rounding up whoever was on the road," said a local, who joined a group of women on Tuesday to close Nowhatta roundabout for traffic as a mark of protest.
Women protesters, with sticks in hand, formed a circle to enforce a closure, which led to a major traffic jam and hindered shoppers' movement.
"My son, who is only 15-year-old, does not know how to ride a motorcycle," said a woman protester on the condition of anonymity. "There is no previous record of my son being involved in stone-pelting incident," she added.
Inspector general of police Shiv Murari Sahai told the Hindustan Times that cases are being looked into. "Sit-ins will not deter us. We will book those involved in the stone-pelting incident. But if there are minor charges, youth will be released. So far no final decision has been taken," said Sahai.
40 youth were granted bail yesterday while 33 youth were sent to judicial remand. However, those, who were granted bail on Monday, are not yet handed over to their families.
"We will release those who have secured bails from the court by evening," said a police officer on the condition of anonymity.
Ironically, the arrest of 73 youth came just a night after chief minister Omar Abdullah announced amnesty to youths involved in over 1,200 cases of stone pelting in the last summer's unrest.
The amnesty does not apply on these arrested on Saturday.