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Shutdown, protests in Srinagar over remarks against Prophet

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Curfew imposed in tense Doda, Kishtwar districts; Internet suspended in Bhaderwah; Jitendra Singh, Omar appeal for calm and harmony


Srinagar/Bhaderwah: Peaceful protests were held in several areas of Srinagar city on Friday over controversial remarks made by two now-suspended BJP leaders against Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Fearing disturbance in the law and order situation in the wake of protests post-Friday prayers, authorities  had suspended mobile internet service in Srinagar since morning while subscribers of several telecom operators complained of ‘call drop’ and other related issues due to the poor signal.

However, internet services were working on fixed-line, including fiber and broadband connections.

Security was heightened in the old city and a few other areas in Civil Lines including Lal Chowk, Maisuma and Batamaloo with police and paramilitary troops manning the streets.

Friday congregational prayers could not be offered at central Jama Masjid in Nowhatta area of old city as the police and CRPF were deployed in strength around the historic mosque to foil any attempt of protest by people in the vicinity.

A senior official told ‘Kashmir Images’ that except for a few protests, the situation remained comparatively calm in Srinagar as no report of violence from any area was received until evening. He said the mobile internet will likely be restored by evening.

Meanwhile shops, business establishments were closed in most areas of Srinagar with nominal movement of public transport on roads. However, educational institutions, government and semi-government offices functioned normally.

Holding placards, men, as well as women, staged protests after the Friday congregational prayers. Officials said the protests were peaceful with no untoward incident being reported from anywhere.

Peaceful protests were held at Lal Chowk, Batamaloo and Tengpora Bypass areas of civil lines while demonstrations were also held at Fatehkadal area in the old city.

“Our Prophet (PBUH) is our pride and honor, irreverence against Prophet (PBUH) is unpardonable,” shouted members of All India Rahul Gandhi Fans Association (AIRGFA) who had assembled near Ghanta Ghar (clock tower) at city center Lal Chowk this afternoon to register their protests against  insulting remarks by spokespersons of the ruling BJP.

“Those hurling invectives and insulting our Prophet (PBUH) can never be humans but blot on entire humanity. They create an atmosphere of hatred for cheap publicity without giving a thought as to what consequences their irresponsible and condemnable actions evoke,” said AIRGFA state president, Peerzada Mohammad Shafi alias Babbar Sher.

He demanded that the BJP leaders who insulted the Prophet (PBUH) be brought to book so that no such acts having potential of sparking communal violence in the country are repeated in future.

People also gathered outside a mosque in Batamaloo against the remarks and sought immediate action against both the BJP leaders who they alleged have wounded sentiments of Muslims. The protesters later dispersed peacefully.

People also staged peaceful protests in Fatehkadal and Tengpora Bypass.

Meanwhile, tension mounted in Jammu’s Bhaderwah and some areas of Kishtwar over the controversial remarks against Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) by two now-suspended BJP leaders, prompting authorities to impose a curfew, officials said on Friday.

Internet services were snapped in the Bhaderwah and Kishtwar towns as a precautionary measure, they said.

Sporadic incidents of stone-pelting were reported in Bhaderwah town. Some people, violating restrictions, came out on the streets and threw stones at security forces while raising slogans.

“There was a minor incident of stone-pelting in Bhaderwah town but it was brought under control. No one was injured,” a senior officer said.

The protest started in Baderwah town of Doda on Thursday when hundreds of people staged a sit-in against the remarks made by now-suspended BJP leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal against Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

After intense negotiations, the protestors agreed to clear the road and entered the neighbouring Jama Masjid. Purported video clips of the inflammatory speeches went viral on social media. The police have registered a case and warned people against taking the law into their own hands.

However, tension increased around midnight when two women, who came out of the mosque, claimed that they were roughed up by the security forces who were implementing the curfew in the town.

Stones were pelted at the security forces who had to later lob tear-gas shells and resort to baton charge.

Tension eased after senior officials, including the additional deputy commissioner, assured the protestors that an enquiry would be held to probe into the allegations levelled by the two women.

Additional Director General (ADG) of Police Mukesh Singh visited the Baderwah town along with the Divisional Commissioner of Jammu, Ramesh Kumar, and other officials to assess the situation.

Later, he told reporters that preventive measures have been taken to ease the situation and requested the media not to visit areas where stone-pelting had taken place as it could flare up the situation.

“Security forces have been deployed in large numbers in Bhaderwah town. The situation is under control. Anyone who tries to vitiate the atmosphere will face stringent action,” Singh said.

The ADG held a meeting with all security agencies, civil administration and the Army to assess the situation and asked them to take stringent action against the miscreants.

A route march was held in Masjid Mohalla, Sadar Bazar and Pasri Bus Stand in Bhaderwah town, Singh added.

“Curfew has been imposed in both Doda and Kishtwar districts as a precautionary measure,” Divisional Commissioner, Jammu region, Ramesh Kumar said.

Regarding registering FIRs, the police have warned that anyone found violating law and order will not be spared.

“Action has been taken (over inflammatory speeches). A case has been registered under IPC sections 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) at Bhaderwah police station,” a police official said.

“Anyone who takes the law into his own hands will not be spared,” he said.

Meanwhile, a cleric Adil Ganai, who has been booked for making inflammatory and hate speeches in Bhaderwah on Thursday, tendered an apology for hurting the sentiments of a particular community.

“It was not against a community but a particular individual. Despite that, I hurt the feelings of a community, I apologise”, he told reporters. Ganai said it was the result of an emotional outburst. “I apologize for that.”

An old man walks on the deserted streets of Srinagar as the city observed a spontaneous shutdown to protest against now-expelled BJP leaders for their remarks about Prophet of Islam (PBUH). Photo/Javed Khan


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