Thousands gather for separatist rally in Kashmir (Lead)

August 22nd, 2008 - 2:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 22 (IANS) Thousands of supporters of the separatist Hurriyat Conference assembled at the sprawling Eidgah ground here in Jammu and Kashmir Friday shouting pro-freedom and pro-Islam slogans. Hurriyat supporters from across the valley gathered to listen to their leaders. The show of strength by the Hurriyat Conference led to closure of shops and schools here, ending a three-day break from shutdowns.

Other businesses, educational institutions and private offices were also closed as traffic went off the roads. But there was no extra deployment of police or paramilitary troopers around Eidgah in the old city.

Friday prayers, according to the Hurriyat’s coordination committee, will be offered at 2 p.m.

Official sources said Mayor Salman Sagar Thursday evening sent a team headed by a joint commissioner of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation and a special contingent of sweepers to the Eidgah ground to get it cleaned.

Salman, who belongs to the National Conference party, has supported the Hurriyat programme of offering Friday prayers at the Eidgah.

“As a Kashmiri Muslim, I support the Namaz programme at the Eidgah,” Salman told IANS.

The National Conference has also supported 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 for about two months over a row involving allotment of land to the Amarnath shrine board. Violence during protests and counter protests in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region have claimed several lives.

The Hurriyat Conference has announced a shutdown Saturday and Sunday, and called for another rally Monday in city centre Lal Chowk.

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