One killed in Srinagar firing, political parties call for peace (Overall lead)

August 15th, 2008 - 12:00 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

Srinagar, Aug 14 (IANS) One person was killed when police fired on slogan-shouting agitators here Thursday, further fuelling anger in crisis-hit Jammu and Kashmir as political parties, separatists and mainstream politicians called for peace over the Amarnath land row. Shabeer Ahmed Handoo, 24, a father of two was killed in the old city area of Safa Kadal when security forces opened fire at violent protesters shouting slogans and pelting stones at policemen. The old city had erupted in tension the night before when thousands of people had trooped out of their homes after rumours that Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers had allegedly molested some women.

Following the public frenzy, authorities Thursday cancelled the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service scheduled for its fortnightly run today.

The all-party meeting convened by Governor N.N. Vohra in the evening urged for a peaceful dialogue and reconciliatory measures to resolve the dispute.

Major political parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the National Conference and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), expressed their collective commitment to strive for peace and amity in the state, an official spokesman said.

“Let the people of the state maintain peace and harmony in this difficult hour, in keeping with their glorious traditions,” the parties in a statement made available to the media.

Separatist parties also chipped for the peace in the valley, where according to official figures, at least 21 people have been killed in clashes with the police since Monday.

The protests Thursday were not as widespread as earlier days. Curfew was relaxed for nine hours from 6 a.m. However, curfew was in place in other parts of the valley.

The relentless conflict over the land transfer to the Amarnath temple trust that has led to Muslims in Kashmir being pitted against Hindus in Jammu saw streets in Srinagar deserted except for patrolling security men.

Thursday night Muslim priests repeatedly made announcements through loudspeakers in mosques asking people to come out to protest against the CRPF allegedly molesting women in the city.

The rumour spread like the proverbial wildfire and there was panic as people rushed out of their homes in the old city. The administration was taken by surprise and finally decided to withdraw the deployment of the CRPF from many sensitive areas of the city.

“I was fast asleep when loud noises and slogan shouting woke me up. It was like the early 1990s. Everybody was on the road in our area, but hardly anybody had any idea about what actually had happened,” said Junaid Ahmad, 47, a resident of old city area.

Following the reports, the inspector general of CRPF handling the situation in the valley has been recalled.

The number of injured in Wednesday’s firing following a clash between the CRPF and the people in Dellu, Pulwama district, has risen to 30. Twelve of seriously wounded were admitted to hospitals here. Doctors said the condition of four was very critical.

Yaseen Malik, chairperson of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), appealed to the people to stay away from violence and refrain from stoning police and paramilitary bunkers and vehicles.

Malik and Sajjad Gani Lone, chief of separatist Peoples Conference, held peaceful demonstrations in the city centre Lal Chowk.

“You can continue with the protests in peaceful manner but please stay away from indulging in violence,” Malik told the gathering of hundreds.

According to inspector general of police, S.M. Sahai 13 demonstrations were held in the Kashmir Valley Thursday.

Protesters in north Kashmir district of Ganderbal hoisted green flags on the house of PDP leader and former legislator Qazi Afzal.

Doctors from various hospitals held an emergency meeting and said they faced an acute shortage of life saving drugs and surgical items like cotton and bandages.

An uneasy quiet descended on the city after slogans and loudspeaker announcements shattered the calm of the night before.

Jammu saw its own tensions.

A man in his 60s, Balwant Rai Khajuria, allegedly consumed poison and ended his life at Hiranagar, 60 km from the winter capital with witnesses claiming he collapsed in front of members of the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, which has been protesting the cancellation of the land allotment.

He reportedly said before dying: “The government is not listening to us. I hereby end my life for the cause.”

Leader of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Geelani, told spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar that Kashmiri Muslims had nothing against the Amarnath pilgrimage.

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