Protests erupted in parts of the Kashmir valley after Eid-ul-Fitr prayers on Saturday, with reports of Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba's flags being unfurled in Srinagar.
A major clash broke out at Srinagar's main prayer ground, Eidgah, where Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, also the valley's head priest, was scheduled to deliver a sermon. Stone-throwing youth took to the streets in the Safa Kadal area as police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel used batons and tear grenades to disperse them.
"The Mirwaiz was to offer the Eid sermon as has been a tradition since centuries. Not allowing the Mirwaiz to offer prayers is deliberate interference with his religious duties," a Hurriyat spokesperson said.
The Mirwaiz, who was not allowed to leave his Srinagar residence on Saturday, addressed the congregation over the phone. "There is no option but to address the Kashmir issue in accordance with the aspirations of the people. Both India and Pakistan should initiate meaningful dialogue over Kashmir," the Mirwaiz told the gathering.
He urged both countries to stop firing at the Line of Control.
Hundreds of devotees gathered on Srinagar's main prayer ground, Eidgah for the prayers on Eid. (Waseem Andrabi/HT photo)
Protests on the streets
At some places in Srinagar city, masked youths displayed Pakistan flags, but they were quickly dispersed by the police. The Pakistan flag has been spotted more than six times in the region since March.
Security forces fired smoke grenades and chased protesters in vehicles to bring the situation under control.
Inspector general of police (IGP) Javaid Jillani had earlier hinted at not allowing separatist protests. "No one will be allowed to disrupt law and order," Jilani had said on Friday.
What sparked violence
The trigger of violent protests was the government decision to disallow Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Geelani to participate in Eid prayers. JKLF chief Yasin Malik was also placed under house arrest in Lal Chowk.
In south Kashmir's Anantnag town, 60km south of Srinagar, protesters hurled stones at security forces. Scores of people, including cops, were injured in the stone pelting.
The state police were expecting protests on Eid. All officers were asked not to leave their stations without permission despite the Eid holiday. Extra security personnel were deployed in sensitive locations.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad blamed the BJP for its failure to contain growing separatism in Kashmir.
Clashes erupt in Kashmir after Eid prayers