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Anti-US demonstrations rock Valley again: strike cripples normal life

SRINAGAR Oct 17 (NNI): Kashmir observed yet another strike as anti-US protesters clashed with the police and para-military men at many places in the capital city and the countryside.
The shutdown was observed across the valley against the visit of US Secretary of State Colin Powell to subcontinent. This was the third such strike since the beginning of the US military strikes on Afghanistan, which in itself is indicative of the resentment developing against the attack.
The third strike was in response to a call by Jaish and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. Incidently the two organizations have recently been declared ‘terrorist’ by the United States. Jaish’s call for strike comes immediately in the wake of the US decision, which is interesting given the fact that earlier the outfit had stopped short of it.
Srinagar again witnessed the same angry scenes of stone-throwing in various areas forcing police to resort to tear-gas shelling. In some areas, police also opened fire to break up the small mobs of youth. About 5 persons were injured and around 20 arrested.
In the morning when the routine traffic started plying, mobs came out on the streets and resorted to brick bating. Though police did act swiftly, this did not help anyway as most of the private and public transport vehicles got grounded. The shops and other commercial institutions did not open at all. A holiday in connection with the Meraj-un-Nabi also helped the strike to get literally implemented. Strike in fact affected the rush of the devotees to the Dargah-e-Hazratbal during the day even though the SRTC was plying a special service.
Reports reaching from across Kashmir said that strike was near-complete in all the townships in the countryside. Traffic was off the roads as shops and all other business establishments remained locked for most of the day. Only Budgam township was partially open.
Protesters were shouting anti-US and pro-Taliban slogans. At many places they were seen setting afire the effigies of US and UK leaders. Apart from brick-bating, they set afire tyres and erected hurdles on the roads making routine movement difficult. Police fired tear gas shells and used batons to chase away the protesters, official sources said.
Protest demonstrations were reported from Maisuma, Nowhatta, Kaksarie, Shaheedgunj and many other places from the old city areas. In Nowhatta, the protesters even attacked the Nowhatta police station.
In Chotabazar locality, police beat many people and rounded up Abdur Rashid Sheikh and Fayaz Ahmad Saudagar. In Nowshehra locality of Srinagar, a BSF vehicle that tried to pass on while a protest was going on, was attacked by the people. It suffered damage and later BSF arrested three people including two sons of Mohammed Maqbool Sofi. They were literally dragged out of their house alongwith the son of Noor Mohammed Gujri.
The situation, by and large, was also same in the major towns where though the markets remained closed, traffic plied minimally across the rural routes. Hartal, however passed peacefully as no reports of stone-pelting or protests were received.
In the absence of a preparatory call for strike usually given days ahead by any Mujahid or political organisation, the strike was also by and large spontaneous. And together with the general unease sweeping across the Islamic world against the attack on Afghanistan, the strike has gone on to further reinforce the simmering resentment in the valley.
Soon after the clashes broke out in the interior areas, the police rushed reinforcements and the cops were almost dotting most of the down-town localities. Para-military BSF was making patrols in all the areas during the day.
Kashmir, it may be recalled here, witnessed a series of strikes against the US strikes on Afghanistan.
According to political observers, this is creating the space for further trouble in the days to come. The volatility of the prevailing Afghan situation and its attendant troublesome fall outs could render the valley tense.
Analysts believe Afghan victim hood could generate a Jehad euphoria in valley once again and give a new impetus to the activity in the valley. –NNI

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