Thousands of people held demonstrations in Srinagar following afternoon prayers on Friday to protest against the Centre’s decision to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir and revoke its special status, Al Jazeera reported. Security forces personnel fired tear gas and shot live rounds in the air to control the crowd. While reports said at least 12 people were injured in Friday’s protests, the Indian government played it down and claimed the situation was under control.
On Friday, the police in Jammu and Kashmir had eased restrictions placed on public gatherings for afternoon prayers. Phone services and internet connections were partially restored in the morning and restrictions on movement were eased to facilitate the prayers. The ease on restrictions came five days after the central government imposed a security lockdown of the state and cut off all communication channels, including landline phones, internet services and cellphones, ahead of its decision to end Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
Protestors ignored orders and marched towards the centre of Srinagar, according to Al Jazeera. Demonstrators carried black flags and banners saying “we want freedom” and “abrogation of Article 370 is not acceptable”.
A large group of protestors had gathered in Srinagar’s Soura area, and was pushed back by security personnel at Aiwa bridge, according to Reuters. A witness told the news agency that officials used tear gas and pellet guns to control the crowd. “Some women and children even jumped into the water,” the witness was quoted as saying, while another said that the police had attacked the crowd from two sides.
An unidentified police officer said 12 people were admitted to two hospitals in the city after suffering pellet injuries, which took the total number of injured this week to at least 30. “There were around 10,000 people at the protest in Soura,” the officer said. “This was the biggest so far.” He added that more than 500 people, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were arrested since Sunday.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, however, played down the protests. He said the protests were temporary and the situation “just outside Srinagar” was normal. “People are going about their business, vehicles are plying normally,” Kumar told Reuters. “If we are confident of maintaining the law and order, I think those restrictions will be relaxed, I’m quite sure.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs also refuted the reports. It said none of these protests involved a crowd of more than 20 people.
Authorities withdrew the curfew orders in Jammu district on Friday evening and instructed educational institutions to reopen from Saturday. The situation in Jammu was normal and that in Kashmir was under control, Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, Muneer Khan, had said.
President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, on Friday. The union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh will come into existence on October 31.