Protests erupt in Srinagar after Eid prayers

A mob set on fire a police barrack and a police vehicle outside Harzratbal Shrine.

Srinagar: Rampaging mobs Saturday set on fire some public properties including the Crime Branch office
and a police guard post in Hazratbal Shrine, as violence marred
Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations in Srinagar city.

Police blamed activists of hard line faction of Hurriyat
Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Muslim League
headed by underground separatist leader Masrat Alam Bhat for
carrying out the incidents of arson as part of a pre-planned
conspiracy to disrupt Eid celebrations.

Soon after a protest rally organised by separatist
leaders at Lal Chowk, a group of youth barged into the office
of Chief Engineer Power Development Department (PDD) near
Exhibition Crossing here and set it on fire.

The adjacent building housing the Crime Branch office
was also engulfed in flames within no time and the blaze
spread rapidly as the building is mostly made of wood.

Police had been clearly instructed that there should be
no firing on the mob. Several rounds were fired in air to
disperse the mob and fire tenders were pressed into service to
douse the flames.

Senior police officials led by Director General of
Police (DGP) Kuldeep Khoda rushed to the spot to bring the
situation under control.

So far, there are no reports of anyone getting injured
in the firing incident.

The rally at Lal Chowk was organised jointly by several
separatist leaders including Moderate Hurriyat chairman
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik and
acting chairman of hard line faction Nissar Hussain Rather.

The separatist activists hoisted several objectionable
flags atop the clock tower. The tower, which was recently
renovated by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, suffered
damage as several youth climbed atop it.

Mirwaiz called for an half-an-hour sit in protest in
the heart of the city and later left for his home despite
assurances made by him that the crowd will disperse quietly
after the sit-in.

During his Eid sermon at Eidgah, where thousands of
people offered prayers, Mirwaiz asked them to march to Lal
Chowk to stage a 30-minute protest against the recent killing
of people in Kashmir.

Earlier, a mob set on fire a police barrack and a
vehicle of the police department outside the Harzratbal Shrine
on the banks of the Dal lake here following which security
forces had to open fire.

Soon after Eid-ul-Fitr prayers, a group of people
attacked the police barrack in the lawns of Hazratbal and set
it on fire. They also set ablaze a police vehicle.

Police opened fire to disperse the mob and prevent any
further damage to public property, they said, adding seven
persons including three cops were hurt in the clashes.

Police spokesman said activists of hardline faction of
Hurriyat Conference led by Geelani and Muslim League disrupted
Eid prayers at Hazaratbal and set afire the Auqaf building
housing the policemen and a police vehicle.

"Timely and prompt action of the fire service and police
stopped the fire from spreading. The mob was dispersed.
However, the situation is tense," he said and accused Mirwaiz of aggravating the situation by "leading a procession
to Lal Chowk, taking the advantage of the Eid congregation”.

"He (Mirwaiz) has vitiated the Eid celebration in
Srinagar," the spokesman said, adding the administration and
police were exercising maximum restraint and have appealed to
the people to cooperate with the administration.

The police spokesman said the workers of the Hurriyat
and Muslim League, who had in a preplanned manner disrupted
the peaceful prayers at Hazratbal, have been identified.

"Investigation reveals that these elements had planned
in advance to provoke the administration and use the Eid
congregating to disrupt festivities and create the
misconception this was a popular movement," he said.

The spokesman said the arrests at Kulgam on Thursday
had found that "hardline Hurriyat Conference has been using
hooligans to force people to participate in the strikes and

"This is for the first time that an Eid congregation
has been converted into protest and the people of Srinagar
have not been allowed to celebrate Eid peacefully," the
spokesman said, adding it seems that people by and large are
being held hostage by elements with vested interests.

Meanwhile, traffic police posts at Jahangir Chowk and
Regal Chowk were also set on fire. The plastic road dividers,
used by the traffic police for regulating traffic, were also
torched at many places.


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