Normal life in Kashmir came to a grinding halt on Tuesday as a complete shutdown was observed to protest the killing of the militants Sameer Tiger and Aqib Khan and a teenage boy during an encounter with forces at Pulwama on Monday.
In the past two years, 68 civilians have been killed of whom 34 have died in the clashes near the encounter sites alone, leaving a question mark on the much talked about Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of police and other forces.
Life came to a standstill across Kashmir as the strike call given by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik, evoked a total response.
In the city centre Lal Chowk all the shops and other commercial establishments remained closed. Roads wore a deserted look and a very thin movement of public and private transport could be noticed. Street vendors were also invisible from the otherwise busy streets of Lal Chowk and Poloview.
A witness said complete strike was observed elsewhere in Srinagar as all major markets. Almost all the educational institutions including schools and colleges remained closed for the day. The Kashmir University had postponed all the exams in the wake of strike.
The government had imposed strict curfew in majority of downtown areas that include Rainawari, Nowhatta, Khanyar, Mahraj Gunj and Safa Kadal. A witness said that there was a heavy deployment of forces on the streets of downtown while as major roads were blocked with the rolls of concertina wires to thwart any protest against the killing of civilian and two militants at Pulwama.
“Police and paramilitary forces were equipped with riot gear including pellet guns and pava shells,” said Reyaz Ahmed, a resident of Nowhatta. He said that paramilitary CRPF men also caught hold of a youth at Bohri Kadal area of downtown and thrashed him for walking on the roads amid strict curbs.
Chairman Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali continued to remain under house arrest. Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) who was scheduled to address a religious gathering at the historic Jamia Masjid after Eisha prayers on the eve of Shab-e-Baraat (night of records) was placed under house detention.
In Southern areas of Kashmir, a witness said that people could been seen marching towards the residences of slain militants Sameer Tiger at Drabgam, Pulwama and Aqib of Rajpora, Pulwama. The witness said that people also flooded the house of slain civilian Shahid Ashraf Dar of Arihal village. “People in large numbers were visiting the residences of slain Sameer, Aqib and Shahid to console their parents,” the witness said.
Another witness said that a complete shutdown was also observed in northern districts that include Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora. Central Kashmir’s Budgam and Ganderbal districts also observed complete strike.