Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR: Even as Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and the former Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah participated in the 60,000-strong Eid congregational prayers at Hazratbal on Saturday, separatist demonstrators clashed with the Police and paramilitary forces in downtown Srinagar and some of them waved Pakistani and ISIS flags while shouting pro-Azadi and pro-Pakistan slogans.
Official sources insisted that over 80,000 devout Muslims formed the State’s thickest Eid prayers congregation at Hazratbal where Mufti and Omar attended the session in the lead row amid tight security arrangements. Authorities had placed around 300 Police recruits in civvies, mostly from Police Training School Manigam, to dominate the crowd around the VVIPs so as to provide an extensive security ring.
However, independent estimates put the number of the participants at Hazratbal at around 60,000. Some 30,000 people performed the congregational prayers in the forenoon at the traditional venue of Eidgah even as the cleric-politician Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is also Chairman of a faction of the separatist alliance Hurriyat Conference, had been placed under house arrest at his residence in Nageen area, near Hazratbal. Those held in detention and denied permission to attend the Eid prayers included hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik, Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabir Shah, National Front head Nayeem Khan besides Bilal Lone, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and Maulvi Abbas Ansari.
In an interesting development, Mufti and Omar shook hands at Hazratbal at the prayers session and exchanged Eid greetings. This was one of the rarest meetings of the two mainstream politicians in the last several years. No political activity or demonstration marred the Eid prayers at Hazratbal.
Nevertheless, immediately after the conclusion of the prayers at Eidgah, when the participants were returning to their home destinations, groups of the separatist demonstrators shouted pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans. They also waved some Pakistani and ISIS flags while facing no resistance from Police for about 30 minutes. Later, unruly separatist groups resorted to stone pelting on Police and CRPF. Ding-dong clashes at some spots in downtown continued intermittently even as the authorities used tear smoke and baton charge to disperse the violent but thin demonstrations.
Reports of some slogan shouting and minor to moderate clashes were received from two Civil Lines neighbourhoods of Kothibagh and Hyderpora besides from Baramulla, Sopore and Anantnag towns.
Geelani had called for “peaceful demonstrations” after the Eid prayers. However most of the participants ignored the call and avoided to play any sort of politics— preferring to visit relatives and friends and celebrating the festival with fervour and gaiety. Congregational prayers were held at all Eidgahs and most of the major mosques with the exception of Jamia Masjid of Srinagar as the administrators had organised the congregational prayers at Eidgah.
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