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Gaza effect: Chaos ruled Srinagar this Friday

Restrictions were aimed at preventing protests over Israeli shelling that coinciding with Ashoora mourning could trigger a larger law and order problem.

, ET Bureau|
Nov 23, 2012, 06.01 PM IST
SRINAGAR: Chaos took over Srinagar Friday morning when “restrictions” on moment on key city roads paralyzed life and triggered a holiday. Restrictions were aimed at preventing protests over Israeli shelling that coinciding with Ashoora mourning could trigger a larger law and order problem.

For the last more than twenty years, authorities have never permitted the Shia Muslims to have a formal mourning processions in Muharam, the first month of Islamic calendar in which prophet’s grandsons were martyred in the battle of Karbala. The routine refrain has been that if the procession is attacked, it would trigger sectarian feuds. On Friday, one Shia mourner actually set himself afire in Batamaloo area of the city against the continued imposition of curfew and literal ban on the formal mourning processions. He was injured and was detained and sent to the hospital.

For this Friday, when the Shia Muslims were scheduled to have at least one major procession, the event coincided with the call from Syed Ali Geelani asking people to protest against the happening in Gaza. The latest direction from the apex court asking the government to lay tiles on the path leading to Amarnath cave was another dimension, that security establishment, felt could trigger a problem. Even the demand by rightwing parties that Afzal Guru should follow Ajmal Kasab was seen as a potent factor for creating tensions. Last few days witnessed some minor anti-Israel protests which were manageable but tackling a major procession after Friday congregations could have been a problem.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was already concerned over the Middle East crisis fearing a reaction in Kashmir could prove nasty. “Let's hope the ceasefire does come into effect in Gaza. Saner heads need to prevail and give peace another chance,” Omar stated early this week. “I can now assume it's no longer a question of 'if' but one of 'when'.” His worries over the issue are rooted in the possible exploitation of the certain vested interests using the issue for their political ends. Kashmir, however, has been observing the last Friday of month of fasting as Youm-e-Quds, renewing the pledge that the Bait-ul-Maqdas needs to be restored to Muslims.

This morning when the people started their routine, they were stopped at cross-sections where drop-gates and concertina wiring blocks had emerged overnight. Office-goes, school children and businessmen were diverted from one road to another toil it chocked most of the city. At around 9:30, vehicles had jammed more than 15 kms of the city roads. All exits to the twin arteries towards Lal Chowk were closed from both ends. Shivering kids took many hours to rush home as schools reported almost zero attendance of children as well as teachers. Businesses remained locked and offices barely functioned.

“It would have been proper if the restrictions were formally announced,” said an angry banker who could neither help his son reach the school or could report to his duty. “When can we have civilized systems?”

Tensions eased after Friday prayers were over. Barring a couple of incidents, the situation was incident free. There were reports of protestors clashing with cops at Barzalla, Batamaloo and Saraf Kadal. Reports about a similar clash were reported from Cement Bridge in north Kashmir Baramulla. Police said the situation remained “by and large peaceful” as the cops’ exercised restraint when one of its posse was attacked in Batamaloo injuring one of the cops. Heavy deployments, police spokesman said, were made as a “precautionary measure”.

Most of the separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Gilani, Yasin Malik and Shabbir Ahmed Shah under kept under house arrest to prevent them from mobilizing people.

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