A day after a semblance of normalcy showed up in Kashmir, rage returned on Thursday with protesters organising sit-in demonstrations. Commuters were thrashed and vehicles damaged for disobeying separatists’ call of complete shutdown.
Even otherwise peaceful areas witnessed separatists’ supporters enforcing curfew-like lockdown.
As the Wednesday images of traffic plying normally in uptown Srinagar were beamed by local and national channels, Srinagar came to standstill again this morning.
At more than a dozen places in Srinagar city people organised sit-ins and obstructed any thin traffic making their move. Only ambulances were allowed by protesters to reach hospitals carrying patients and staff.
From uptown Rambagh to old Srinagar’s Hawal and Khanyar area, hundreds of people converged on roads and raised pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. Situation took an ugly turn at Khanyar, Rambagh and Maisuma where police used force to disperse angry protesters. At Ramabgh, many women protesters were thrashed severely by the police.
“Every year dozens of people die. Let there be an end once for all to the blood shed. We too want to live a peaceful life in resolved Kashmir,” said a protester at Hawal area insisting not to be named.
Many commuters complained that their vehicles were damaged by protesters even at otherwise peaceful areas of Lal Bazaar and Badamwari. Motley group of protesters made rounds of city ensuring shops are closed and there was no traffic on the streets. Uptown most peaceful area Jawahar Nagar and Rajbagh too witnessed closed shops today with shopkeepers complaining of threatening by separatists supporters. More troops were sent to trouble-spot Maisuma to control the protesters.
In south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, a major clash broke out at Nambalbal Pampore. Police used force to control the situation. Police sources said clashes were on at the time the copy was being filed. There was no official confirmation on how many were injured in the protests. In north Kashmir’s Kupwara area too, a complete shutdown was observed in response to separatists call.
Police sources told the Hindustan Times that the government was planning to put in strict security restrictions back in Srinagar. They said curfew might be clamped again in half-a-dozen police stations.
With shutdown and curfew bringing life to a standstill for more than a month now, a leading newspaper Greater Kashmir published front page editorial demanding alternative to shutdowns called by separatists.
“This goes without saying that weeks’ long strike has crippled life in Kashmir. Business has got an unprecedented beating. Healthcare is in disarray. Doctors can not discharge the duties, and patients suffer. Schools and colleges look like a thing of past. Our children have forgotten the habit of learning. This will have a long term adverse effects on us,” said the editorial.
It asked for introspection. “Before another program of protests is made public in the next couple of days, it’s imperative for the separatist leadership to respond to the problems faced by people due to extended strikes...After all there are families to be fed, children to be schooled, and sick to be treated,” it added. It asked separatist to make people follow them rather than separatists following people.
The editorial by the leading daily has triggered a debate on the protest politics of separatists.
Kashmir has been tense since June 11 when a boy was hit by a rubber bullet in old Srinagar. Since then a spate of protests left 15 civilians dead and the government was forced to stage the army's flag march to control the situation. The army is still on standby in the Valley to assist the government.