Curfew relaxed in Kashmir for Friday prayers, thousands gather

Curfew has reportedly been relaxed in selected areas of Kashmir on Friday evening to allow for Friday prayers on the occasion of Shab-e-Mehraj.

Zeenews Bureau

Srinagar: Curfew has been relaxed in selected areas of Kashmir on Friday evening to allow for Friday prayers on the occasion of Shab-e-Mehraj. Relaxation has been given in downtown area of Srinagar where thousands gathered for the prayers.

The curfew was relaxed in all parts of the Kashmir Valley from 8 p.m. onwards, an official added.

The move, claimed by TV media, comes hours after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah held a meeting of senior police officials and bureaucrats and was closeted with senior ministers of his cabinet to take stock of the situation.

He discussed further easing of curfew restrictions in
view of Shab-e-Mehraj, a religious function. Omar has also convened an all-party meeting in Srinagar on Monday to discuss the present situation. Media reports indicat that Opposition party PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti may not attend the meet.

Meanwhile, curfew remained in place for the
fourth consecutive day today in the Valley with some
relaxation to allow people to offer Friday prayers as
militants struck at three places in Sopore in North Kashmir,
leaving two policemen injured.

Simultaneously, Jammu and Kashmir police cracked down on
stone pelters during the night and today as well and arrested
nearly two dozen people which included Mehraj-ud-din Bhat,
Mohammed Ashraf Laya and Yusuf Mujahid -- all activists of
Hurriyat Conference faction led by hardliner Syed Ali Shah

The three were charged with instigating mobs to turn

Announcements were made locally by the police informing
people that they can go for Friday prayers. This period passed
off peacefully without any trouble in the city.

However, there were sporadic clashes in Tregham in
Kupwara, old Baramulla town and in Dalgate which was brought
under control by a mild cane-charging by the police.

The authorities, however, lifted restrictions on the
movement of media persons in the wake of curfew in Srinagar
and certain other parts of the valley and issued fresh curfew
passes to them.

Media persons can perform their official duties, an
official spokesman said.

Newspapers failed to hit the stands for the second day
today in the Valley in the wake of the restrictions.

Official spokesman said there was no gag order on the
media but "we were only enforcing the curfew strictly".

The last time the newspapers did not come out was in
2008 at the height of the Amarnath land agitation. Publication
of dailies at that time was suspended for four days.

Newspaper publication had also remained suspended for
40 days during elections in 1996.

Army, which had staged flag marches in Srinagar, did not
repeat the exercise this morning. The district administration
asked the Army to remain on stand by for deployment in case of
an emergency.

Suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba Militants hurled three
grenades at a police convoy in the outskirts of Sopore city,
54 kms from here in the wee hours today, official sources
The grenades were followed by heavy firing which was
retaliated by the security personnel. No one was injured,
police said.

The second incident involved firing at around 0130 hours
at the main crossing of Sopore city, which left a jawan of
Indian Reserve Battalion injured.

The third incident took place on Sopore-Baramulla road
at 0230 hours when militants fired at police vehicles, leaving
one of the police drivers injured, police said.

Additional paramilitary forces comprising eight
companies (800 personnel) sought by the state arrived last
evening and were immediately deployed in troubled areas of the

Amid intercepts suggesting involvement of hardline
separatists in engineering some of the violence in the Valley,
the state government carried out massive raids during the
night and arrested a dozen people including Shabir Ahmed Wani,
district president of Hurriyat Conference led by pro-Pakistan
separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

The Chief Minister while admitting that recent
developments in the Valley had dented his government`s
credibility, however, dismissed suggestion that the situation
was out of control.

"Perhaps some of my so-called friends might have thought
that I would run away and leave the field for them to take
advantage. But I am not a weak person. I am here to deliver
and would do my best," the Chief Minister asserted in an

In New Delhi, Home Minister P Chidambaram briefed top
Congress leaders on the situation in the Valley.

The hour-long meeting of the Congress Core Group chaired
by party President Sonia Gandhi discussed the issue in detail
as the party had expressed concern over the developments.

Apart from Gandhi, all other members of the Core Group
including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister
Pranab Mukherjee, Chidambaram and political secretary to the
Congress President Ahmed Patel attended the meeting, party
sources said.

-PTI inputs

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