The Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday refuted reports claiming thousands of people had held demonstrations in Srinagar following afternoon prayers on Friday against revoking of special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The ministry said none of these protests involved a crowd of more than 20 people.

These reports appeared in Reuters and Al Jazeera. The reports said 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, Reuters reported.

“This is completely fabricated and incorrect,” the spokesperson for the Union Home Ministry said on Twitter. “There have been a few stray protests in Srinagar/Baramulla and none involved a crowd of more than 20 people”.

A witness told Reuters 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, also, 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.”

Prohibitory orders under Code of Criminal Procedure Section 144 were lifted in five districts and curfew was relaxed in Doda and Kishtwar districts on Friday. All schools and colleges reopened in five districts of the Jammu region on Saturday.

District Development Commissioner of Kishtwar Angrez Singh Rana told PTI that the curfew was relaxed for one hour in a phased manner in different parts of the town for the first time since its imposition on Monday.

On Friday, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. The union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh will come into existence on October 31.