It was masses versus classes at the Srinagar Idgah on Friday. A sea of people arrived at the rally, waving green flags – some of them Pakistani – and raising slogans, but the top leaders of the Hurriyat Conference went home unheard.
Several separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Ummer Farooq, Shabir Ahmad Shah and Mohammad Yasin Malik, had arrived at the historic ground to speak after Friday prayers.
But the audio system broke down as people jostled for space around the podium. The cables connecting the loudspeakers were cut and chaos took over.
“It was the most disorganised rally I have ever seen,” admitted a middle-rung Hurriyat activist. He said, “All our requests to people to maintain discipline fell on deaf ears.”
The leaders said about 10 lakh people participated in the rally, making things difficult to manage. But independent sources put the number at five lakh while police said it was 2.5 lakh.
Syed Ali Geelani was the first to leave the ground. A cardiac patient, Geelani “was about to collapse,” said Ayaz Akbar, a close associate of Geelani’s.
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and other leaders waited for over an hour for things to quieten down, but they too had to leave when people appeared in no mood to listen.
Hurriyat leaders called up newspaper offices to announce their future course of action. “The strike will continue till Monday,” said a spokesperson of the Hurriyat Conference. He added, “There will be another march to Lal Chowk on Monday.”
“It is a campaign for azadi, and nothing short of azadi is acceptable,” said the Hurriyat spokesperson.