Shutdown, protests in Valley over Charlie Hebdo cartoons

  • Peerzada Ashiq IANS, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Jan 23, 2015 22:38 IST

Kashmir valley witnessed a shutdown and widespread street protests post Friday prayers over reprinting of sketches of Prophet Muhammad by newspapers in the West after the Charlie Hebdo attack in France.

Dozens of demonstrations were held in Srinagar led by traders, religious and separatist groups like the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, Jamaat-e-Islami, JKLF and factions of separatist Hurriyat.

Security forces across the valley was beefed up in the wake of a day-long shutdown call issued by separatists groups and the religious body Muttahida Ulema Ahle Sunnat against what they call blasphemous cartoons.

The normal life was crippled because of the strike. All business centres, markets in towns, banks and offices remained closed for the day. There was thin traffic on the roads.

Protesters at several places burnt effigies of Charlie Hebdo editors. They raised anti-West and pro-Islam slogans. Most protests in the city dispersed peacefully. Concertina wires and barricades were put in place in sensitive places like Lal Chowk in anticipation of large protests by the security forces.

A clash between security forces and protesters took place in south Kashmir's Anantnag district, which left two demonstrators injured. The police used tear smoke shells to bring situation under control. Several towns in north Kashmir saw protesters taking to the streets after the Friday prayers.

"These sketches are being published with sole aim to hurt sentiments of millions of Muslims across the world. Under the garb of freedom of expression, an attempt is made to stoke communal passions against a particular community," said head priests Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who also heads moderate faction of the Hurriyat.

Several separatist leaders, including JKLF chief Yasin Malik and Democratic Freedom Party head Shabir Shah, alleged they were held up in their respective residences by the security forces.

Meanwhile, mainstream National Conference general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar said intentional attempts to hurt Muslim sentiments is unacceptable. "Both the provocation and violence should be condemned unequivocally," said Sagar.

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