Police lobbed tear gas shells after protesters pelted stones and clashed with security forces on Friday in Srinagar over the Centre’s proposal to set up “composite townships” to rehabilitate Kashmir Pandits, displaced from their homes due to insurgency.
Sources said supporters of the separatist group, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), clashed with police at Lal Chowk, the iconic city centre in the state’s summer capital, forcing police to retaliate.
The clashes came a day before a shutdown in the valley, called by separatist groups and supported by the United Jehad Council, based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Separatist groups have reacted angrily to the BJP-led NDA government’s proposal which chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed denied in the state assembly on Thursday.
The BJP is a ruling ally in the state, the first instance the saffron party has a share of power in the country’s only Muslim-majority state.
Union Home minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday hinted that there was no going back on the plans for separate townships for Pandits in the Valley, described by Sayeed as “Israeli-type settlements”.
At present, there are about 62,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families in the country, who had moved out of the Valley to Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country.
Police said scores of protesters led by JKLF chief Yasin Malik took to the streets after Friday prayers and marched towards Lal Chowk for a planned sit-in protest.
Malik was, however, stopped by security personnel and detained leading to the clashes between his supporters and security personnel.
Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz, who led the Friday prayers in the old city, reiterated his opposition to the townships.
“This is a conspiracy on the lines of Palestine. We want to tell the world that we are not communal but oppose any idea to divide the state on religious lines. The move to have separate townships is aimed at dividing the state on religious lines,” Mirwaiz said during his sermon.
Security around Jamia Masjid was beefed up in the wake of the protest call issued by Mirwaiz.