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Kashmir shuts down to remember 1931 martyrs


Srinagar : Tension gripped old city areas here as stone-pelting mobs engaged the police in pitched battles Sunday during a procession to remember the martyrs of the 1931 uprising against the autocratic Dogra rule in Jammu and Kashmir.

Normal life was crippled in Srinagar as shops and other businesses remained closed and traffic was off the roads. July 13 is also a public holiday in the state as people flock the martyrs’ graveyard in Khwaja Bazar area of the old city.

Mehbooba Mufti, president of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had to beat a hasty retreat after slogan-shouting protesters gathered in an area outside the graveyard refusing her entry inside.

National Conference president Omar Abdullah, accompanied by senior party leaders Ali Mohammad Sagar and Mustafa Kamal, reached the graveyard around 12 noon with nearly 3,000 supporters.

Omar Abdullah lashed out at the separatist Hurriyat leaders accusing them of doublespeak.

“They were the people who supported the Janata Party in 1977 Kashmir elections. They say one thing in Pakistan, another in Delhi and something else in Kashmir,” said the National Conference president.

Omar Abdullah also accused the PDP of deceiving the people on the Amarnath land row.

“The PDP ministers first signed allotment of land to the shrine board and then started opposing it. They are totally exposed before the people now.”

As Abdullah was speaking at the graveyard, supporters of the separatists resorted to heavy stone-pelting from outside.

The police had a tough time dispersing the stone-pelting protesters who kept on re-grouping in the lanes and bylanes of the old city areas.

Pitched battles were fought between the stone-pelting protesters and the police at Nowhatta, Khawaja Bazar and Khanyar localities of the old city.

Both the groups of the separatist Hurriyat conference, headed by hardline leader Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had called for a general shutdown Sunday.

Kashmiris observe July 13 as Martyrs Day to pay tributes to those killed in police firing outside the central jail here in 1931 when a mob stormed the jail triggering an uprising against the erstwhile Dogra rulers.

Reports said nearly two dozen protesters and policemen were injured in protests Sunday.