Kashmir valley remained on the edge on Thursday in the wake of a youth's killing in Srinagar last evening in alleged security forces' firing. Protests sparked by the death forced chief minister Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti to cancel their poll rallies, while curfew and shutdown brought life to a standstill in the valley.
Tension spread to other parts of Kashmir valley today. In south Kashmir's Pulwama and Pampore areas, protesters took to the streets and hurled stones at troopers. At least four protesters received pellet injuries in north Kashmir's Barmulla town. Central Kashmir's Ompora area in Budgam district too witnessed clashes between protesters and security forces. The downtown areas also witnessed sporadic stone-throwing incidents despite the curfew.
National Conference's Abdullah and PDP's Mufti cancelled their scheduled poll rallies in north Kashmir's Bandipora area where security forces had to use tear-smoke shells to disperse stone-throwing protesters. The shadow of street agitation and violence seems set to impact north Kashmir too, which is going for polls on May 7.
The fresh cycle of protests was triggered by the clash between protesters and security forces on Wednesday evening at Srinagar's Nawa Kadal area, immediately after the polling ended, which left a youth dead and three others injured. The slain youth, Bashir Ahmad Bhat, a mason by profession, died after he received bullets in his abdomen. Hundreds of people participated in the last rites of the youth, who was buried late in the night.
According to the police, a party of security forces came under severe attack by some miscreants in the area. "The miscreants snatched the weapon of a security force personnel. In the ensuing scuffle two persons identified as Bashir Ahmed Bhat and Nazir Ahmed Kaloo were injured. Bhat latter succumbed to his injuries,” the police statement said.
Apparently Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was manning and accompanying the poll staff at Nawa Kadal. CRPF spokesman, however, denied that the CRPF opened fire."Our men didn’t open fire. There were other forces as well," a local news agency quoted CRPF spokesman Kishore Kumar as saying.
All mainstream parties and their leaders --- including chief minister Omar Abdullah, Union minister Farooq Abdullah, Congress star chief Saifuddin Soz and PDP's Mehbooba Mufti --- condemned the killing.
Separatists, which include hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani, moderate Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF's Yasin Malik, called for shutdown on Thursday. Geelani has called for protests after Friday prayers too.
"A war has been waged against people of Kashmir. Hundreds of youth have been listed in police stations and kept in a hit list and targeted," alleged Geelani.
Separatists’ shutdown call disrupted life in north and south Kashmir, where thin traffic and poor attendance was observed in offices. Kashmir University also cancelled all examinations scheduled for Thursday.
The authorities imposed curfew in at least seven police stations in Srinagar. Additional security personnel in riot gear were deployed in all sensitive areas in the city. Razor wires and iron barricades were set up on all main roads passing through the old city to impose strict restriction on movement.
The security personnel since the morning did not allow movement of people.