The police are looking at a new plan of deployment of forces around the Jamia Masjid area in order to undercut a chance of the outbreak of protest demonstrations there. In this regard, in all likelihood, the police would reduce the number of its men around the grand mosque on the coming Friday. But for this to happen, the police feel JamiaAuqaf must close all the entry and exit gates of the mosque once the worshippers have left.
The closure of all Jamia gates, according to the police, will help it to take on stone-throwing protestors outside the precincts of the grand masjid as it believes dispersing youth would become easy on streets. It says the youngsters run back into the mosque compound to regroup and come back at the police.
However, Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) and the patron of MutahidaMajlis-e-Ulema, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that it has been a routine of forces to remain deployed since morning in huge numbers at Nowhatta.
“Wearing battle-gear, whosoever looks at them, feels afraid. Such a look of forces gives an impression that as if forces are preparing for fighting some kind of a war there,” he said. “The huge deployment of forces outside Jamia Masjid instils fear, raises tension and agitates the youth. We are demanding that there should be no deployment on Fridays at Nowhatta and its adjoining areas.”
He said it has become a routine of government to turn the entire downtown into a military fortress, whenever any untoward happens anywhere in Kashmir. “One thing is clear that the pulpit of Jamia Masjid has been and will continue to raise the issues of ultimate repression unleashed on the people. This pulpit can’t be silenced through military might,” he said. “Jamia Masjid has been a spiritual and religious centre for the lakhs of people of Kashmir and it will continue to remain so.”
As it frames new tactics to ensure worshippers pray in a peaceful environment, consensus has evolved among the Jamia Market Association, Shahre- Khass Traders Association, Anjuman-e-JamiaAuqaf, in consultations with the Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, that there should be no deployment of police and paramilitary CRPF in Nowhatta on Friday.
On last Friday, at least 50 people sustained pellet injuries after the police and paramilitary CRPF resorted to indiscriminate use of pellets and teargas shelling to quell the protestors. The pellets rained on the worshippers inside the Jamia Masjid leaving the floor of the grand masjid stained with blood. The masjid had to be cleaned and the portion where blood stains were found was washed thoroughly by the Anjuman-e-AuqafJamia Masjid.
A senior police officer, authorised to suggest a security plan for Friday, said that the major concern for the police is that stone pelters after triggering clashes with the forces, later take refuge in the masjid. “Inside, they re-group in large numbers and then come out again leading to violent clashes. We have agreed in principle not to deploy our men closer to Jamia Masjid,” he said, wishing not to be named. “Our men would stay away from the masjid area. But Auqaf must help us in containing the situation by closing the entry/exit gates of the masjid soon after devotees leave the place so that stone pelters don’t take shelter inside the masjid.”
General secretary Anjuman-e-AuqafJamiaMasjid Altaf Ahmed said that on last Friday, many pillars of the grand masjid suffered damage due to intense pellet firing. “Our concern is why deployment. I don’t think there is any need for it on Fridays,” he said. “Whatever happened last Friday was for the first time after Dogra rule. I have never seen blood on the floor of Jamia Masjid in my life so far.”
President Shahr-e-Khaas Traders Coordination Committee (SKTCC), Nazir Ahmed Shah said that the oldest commercial hub of Kashmir, the downtown, has been suffering immensely due to frequent curfews and restrictions. “The overall business activities have decreased across downtown due to last Friday’s clashes. People are afraid of visiting this area fearing that something untoward may happen,” he said. “Since people come to Jamia Masjid in huge numbers on Fridays during the fasting month, after prayers, they would spread in markets like ZainaKadal, MaharajGunj, Jamia market, Nowhatta, and go for shopping. Due to the last Friday’s episode, our business has faced a jolt.” He also said there should be no deployment of forces at Nowhatta on Fridays.
Director general of police SP Vaid said: “Let there be guarantee that no stone pelting would take place at Jamia Masjid. Only then we can think of doing away with the deployment.”