The drama surrounding the demand for the Pulwama militants’ memorial row is “finally set to end” as trader bodies who were negotiating with authorities said the town will open on Saturday, putting an end to the two-week long hiatus.
Pulwama residents said on Friday evening there was an announcement from the local masjid that shops will open the next day.
In a statement issued by Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, its president, Mohammad Yasin Khan said the Pulwama deadlock “has ended as the government agreed in principle to meet the demands of area traders and civilians”.
The statement said, “Apart from construction of a memorial of martyrs, administration agreed that all the detained youth are being released, and that there would be no further raids or harassment of civilians.”
Police sources said that a few shops in the town had already opened on Friday.
“No one knows whether the demands will be met by the government. The delegation that negotiated the deal is keeping mum. They are saying that revealing details might create confusion and it is better that the deal is made public once the town opens up,” said a Pulwama-based journalist who did not wish to be named.
Sources present during the meeting between the residents’ delegation and the administration told HT that though the government agreed to release the detained youth no consensus was reached regarding installing the proposed memorial board for militants.
The traders’ associations had decided to put a green banner proclaiming “Mazar-e-Shohda”, meaning martyr’s graveyard as a signboard. It will contain an Arabic verse from the Quran and a quote from an Urdu poem by Muhammad Iqbal.
The verse goes like this: “Their blood is precious and divine. Like precincts of the Holy Shrine.”
Since January 1, there has been a continued strike in the sensitive south Kashmir town due to a protracted tussle between residents and the administration over a proposed memorial for militants.
The small graveyard in the town where militants are buried doesn’t have a signboard to convey, what residents want, “martyrs are buried here”. When Omais Ahmad Sheikh, a member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group, was buried there last month, the demand to erect a memorial grew stronger.
On Wednesday, however, a delegation from the village had met the divisional commissioner of Kashmir Asgar Samoon and decided that the town would open up. Samoon had, however, told HT no decision was reached on the state allowing the construction of a memorial.
Pulwama remained shut for the fourteenth consecutive day on Thursday, signalling failure of talks.
Protest marches across the Valley
In a separate incident, violent clashes took place on Friday in north Kashmir’s Palhallan town as residents came out to express ‘solidarity with Pulwama’. Reports said soon after the Friday afternoon prayers, people took to the streets following the call given by senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani. Protest demonstrations were also held at Nowhatta area of old Srinagar, apart from those at Hyderpora and Ganderbal.