JAMMU & KASHMIR, India - As civilians marked the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and offered Eid prayers on Saturday, clashes broke out in different parts of India’s Kashmir valley.
According to reports, one civilian was killed and 18 others were injured after protesters clashed with security forces guarding the region.
Over the last week, Kashmir has been on an edge, after veteran journalist Shujaat Bukhari was gunned down on Thursday.
While the police in Jammu and Kashmir have described the murder as a terror attack, it is not yet clear which outfit was behind it.
On Saturday, after the congregational Eid prayers in Kashmir, protesters in the area are said to have pelted stones at security forces.
The clashes that ensued reportedly led to the death of an 18-year-old protester, identified as Sheraz Ahmad Naikoo from Anantnag’s Brakpora.
The Kashmir police confirmed the youngster’s death but said that he died during a hand grenade explosion.
A police spokesperson said in a statement, “The claim of a youth being killed during clashes is refuted. Preliminary investigation suggested that a hand grenade exploded. The splinters caused injuries to Naikoo’s right hand, and resulted in his death. Further details are being ascertained.”
Some reports noted earlier in the day, that Naikoo was seriously injured in the clashes at Brakpora in Anantnag and later succumbed to his injuries at the Janglat Mandi hospital.
Locals in the area have however, alleged that the security forces “excessively used pellet guns” resulting in the casualties. Hospital sources said that three protesters suffered pellet injuries in the eyes.
Meanwhile, clashes were also reported in Safakadal, that resulted in one person being injured.
Further, officials in north Kashmir said that clashes broke out between protesters and police officers in Sopore and Kupwara areas too.
Local police said in a statement that a crowd protested against an alleged army firing in Pulwama on Friday, in which a nine-year-old boy was said to have been killed.
Security was beefed up in the area as the boy, identified as Viqas Ahmad Rather, was buried at Nowpora Payeen.
According to the local police, few militants also appeared at the funeral and had addressed the gathering.
The police said that the militants gathered there had threatened to ransack police officials’ residences “in case the security forces failed to stop raiding the houses of militants.”
Further, they also launched an attack on a road opening party of the CRPF and injured a paramilitary trooper at Lasjan on the outskirts of Srinagar.
Clashes were also reported in Shopian town, where a group of youngsters attacked the police with stones and seven people were reportedly injured.
Officers said that the police had to use tear gas shells and pellet guns to disperse the crowd.
In Srinagar’s Eidgah too, sporadic clashes were reported after the Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led the prayers for the first time in eight years.
Farooq reportedly asked New Delhi “to stop the policy of repression,” in his Eid sermon.
He said, “Kashmir is a political and humanitarian issue and dealing with this issue with the military can’t yield any result neither can it force the people of Kashmir or the leadership into a submission.”
The two deaths were condemned by the Separatists joint forum, Joint Resistance Leadership, which includes Syed Ali Geelani, the Mirwiaz and Yasin Malik.
The police said that the clashes came as thousands of Muslims offered prayers at the Hazratbal shrine to mark the end of Ramadan and that huge gatherings for Eid were also organized in Sonawar and Soura Shrines in the heart of the city.
Similar gatherings were also held at all districts headquarters and major towns of the Valley.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who first visited the Dara Shikoh Park at Bijbehara to offered Fateh (special prayers) to her father and former Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, joined the congregational prayers at the Ziyarat Hazrat Syed Sahibin at Srinagar’s Sonwar.
Mufti said, “I wish and hope the Eid brings along peace and prosperity to the State and its people.”
Meanwhile, the Centre is now set to announce its decision on whether to extend the Ramadan ceasefire, which ended on Saturday.