Protesters blocked the vital Jammu-Pathankot national highway and raised pro-Khalistan slogans in Kashmir Valley on Friday following the death of a Sikh youth in clashes over the removal of posters carrying pictures of militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
Jammu and adjoining districts remained on the edge after the youth died in police firing on Thursday during clashes with security forces, prompting authorities to clamp indefinite curfew in restive areas and suspend Internet services.
“Police were forced to fire to control the situation. We are holding talks with representatives of the Sikh community and hope to restore normality,” said Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh.
Watch:Sikh protestors block highway in clash with Jammu police
Internet services were restored on Friday afternoon, although educational institutions and commercial establishments remained closed in most parts of Jammu city.
People shouted pro-Khalistan slogans and blocked national highway 1A that connects Srinagar with Jalandhar. Reports said the Jammu-Rajouri highway was also blocked at several places and a bandh was called in the Nowshera area of Rajouri.
The protests reached Srinagar, too, where dozens of Sikhs assembled at a gurdwara near Lal Chowk, shouting anti-government slogans and waving Bhindranwale posters.
“He lives in our hearts,” said a protester. “We are wearing Bhindranwale T-shirts. Will the police remove them too?”
The Valley-based All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) demanded a judicial inquiry and suspension of policemen involved in the killing.
Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani fueled the fire, describing the police action as brutal. “This was the worst kind of the state terrorism. Protests happen everywhere in the world, but Jammu and Kashmir is the only unfortunate region where protests are silenced with bullets and atrocities,” he said.
Chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti have condoled the death of the youth and appealed for peace.
The protests erupted after assistant sub-inspector Arun Kumar Sharma was found removing posters of slain Sikh militant leader Bhindranwale in the Satwari area of Jammu on Wednesday. He was wounded when a Sikh youth attacked him with a knife, leading to violent clashes with security forces.
Tension mounted on Thursday night when some of the protesters snatched a police constable’s AK-47 service rifle after allegedly hitting him with a sharp weapon.
The army has been called to restore order while heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces has been made in Sikh-majority areas.
“Indefinite curfew in areas under the jurisdiction of Satwari and Mirian Sahib police stations will continue till further orders,” a senior police officer said.