Kashmir braces for another separatist rallyAugust 22nd, 2008 - 11:37 am ICT by IANS
Srinagar, Aug 22 (IANS) The separatist Hurriyat Conference is all set for another “show of strength” through a rally Friday, which has led to closure of shops and schools in this summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, ending a three-day break from shutdowns. Shops and other businesses, educational institutions and private offices were closed as traffic was off the roads in view of the call to march to the Eidgah prayer grounds here by two factions of the Hurriyat Conference.
There was no extra deployment of police or paramilitary troopers around Srinagar’s Eidgah in the old city.
Friday prayers, according to the Hurriyat’s coordination committee, will be offered at at 2 p.m.
Mayor Salman Sagar has got the Eidgah grounds cleaned for the scheduled Friday prayers as thousands of people are expected to join the congregation, which will be followed by an address by the pro-freedom leadership.
Official sources said the mayor Thursday evening sent a team headed by a joint commissioner of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and a special contingent of sweepers to the venue to get it cleaned.
Salman, who belongs to the mainstream National Conference, has supported the Hurriyat programme of offering Friday prayers at the Eidgah.
“As a Kashmiri Muslim, I support the Namaz programme at Eidgah,” he told IANS.
The National Conference has also been supporting moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq’s demand of opening the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road and revocation of laws giving special powers to armed forces in the state.
The state has been on the boil following the government order - which was later revoked - to transfer around 40 hectares of forest land to a Hindu temple trust. The rescinding of the order triggered violent protests in Jammu, during which protests on a national highway disrupted supply of essential supplies to the Kashmir valley.
Kashmiri leaders - separatist and mainstream - are alleging that outfits from Hindu-dominated Jammu region forced an “economic blockade” against the Muslim Kashmiris, bringing the state to the brink of unprecedented communal divide.
The Hurriyat Conference has announced a shutdown Saturday and Sunday, and the separatist conglomerate has called for another huge rally Monday in city centre Lal Chowk near the government secretariat.