Srinagar: Three people died and many were injured as clashes between protesters and security forces in parts of the troubled Kashmir Valley marred celebrations of Eid-al-Adha. The festival was celebrated under curfew for the first time in over two decades.
With the city under a total clampdown, a separatist call for a march to the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) also proved a non-starter.
All roads leading to the UNMOGIP office in the high-security Sonwar locality here had heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces who blocked all vehicles and even prevented pedestrian movement.
Two of the dead were protesters killed in clashes with security forces — one each in Shopian and Bandipora districts — while one person in a mosque died, apparently of heart attack, after a teargas shell crashed into the shrine at Awantipora in Pulwama district.
Shahid Ahmed, 24, was killed in Shopian when a mob defied curfew and began heavy stone-pelting at security forces. The forces retaliated with tear gas and pellets, resulting in Shahid’s death. Ten others were also injured in the street fighting.
Jallaluddin, 45, died of heart attack when a teargas shell fired at protesters outside abruptly dropped into the Awantipora mosque where he was. Another youth, Murtaza, 25, was earlier killed in clashes in Bandipora. Clashes were also reported from Batamaloo area in Srinagar.
With policeman Rouf Ahmed, who was injured in a gunfight in Nowhatta town on August 15, succumbing on Tuesday, the death toll in the ongoing unrest sparked by the July 8 killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani has climbed to 86, according to police records. Thousands have been injured in the violence.
Authorities said on Monday that the curfew had been ordered across all 10 districts of the valley on Eid as they had received intelligence inputs that separatists had planned large-scale violence after prayers in the city.
Eid congregations were disallowed in Srinagar for the first time since the early 1990s when the separatists began their armed struggle. People could offer prayers only in mosques.
On Tuesday, the faithful offered Eid prayers in small groups in mosques in towns and villages in the valley. There were no visible celebrations in Srinagar as people preferred to be indoors fearing clashes and violence.
Traditionally, Muslims visit friends and relatives to mark the occasion, something that could not be done under curfew.
Authorities made a special effort to foil the proposed march to the UNMOGIP office, with police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) taking over the area. An Eid congregation at a shrine in Sonwar was disallowed as authorities feared that devotees might march to the nearby UN office.
The UNMOGIP has officers at Srinagar and Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir and Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-held Kashmir. It is mandated to ensure that ceasefire violations don’t occur between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control (LoC) between the two countries.
Despite its limited mandate, it has become customary for separatists to hand over memoranda to officials posted at UNMOGIP.
The separatist leaders — under detention since the ongoing unrest that started a day after Burhan Wani’s killing — had announced the march to coincide with the opening of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.