Srinagar, April 14: Protests were held across Kashmir on Friday against the rape and murder of eight-year-old Asifa in January this year and the killing of four civilians by government forces in Kulgam on Wednesday.
The separatist leadership had called only for protests after Friday prayers but people closed businesses and traffic on roads was thin. The protesters were demanding stern punishment to the accused in the dastardly crime.
Kashmir University female hostellers held a sit-in on Friday evening and demanded fair and speedy trial in Asifa rape and murder case.
Condemning the protests held by the Jammu Bar Association, the students shouted anti-BJP and anti-PDP slogans.
“Unlike Aasiya and Neelofar rape and murder case that still awaits justice, this time death penalty should be the sole punishment for the culprits,” said the students.
The students held placards that read: “We won’t stop until you make us feel safe” and “justice for Asifa”.
“They say Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. Is this what that slogan means?” asked a female student.
A large number of forces deployed in Nowhatta ensured prayers are not offered at the historic Jamia Masjid even on the occasion of Mehraj-e-Alam (night of ascension). The police did not allow Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who leads prayers at the mosque, to leave home.
Soon after the Friday prayers, leaders and activists of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Muhammad Yasin Bhat, Sheikh Abdur Rashid, Bashir Kashmir, Ashraf Bin-Salam and many others, tried to march towards Lal Chowk but were stopped by the police. They were holding placards with “justice for Asifa” slogans.
In their slogans, the protesters paid homage to the deceased civilians and demanding an end to bloodbath in Kashmir.
Speaking to reporters, the JKLF leaders termed Asifa’s rape and murder a blot on the face of the entire humanity.
“We will continue to protest till those involved in the heinous crime of first attacking the chastity of minor Asifa and then murdering her mercilessly are not hanged in public,” the JKLF leaders said.
Many traders and civil society activists also participated in the protest. The protestors later staged a peaceful sit-in.
Leaders and activists associated with the Hurriyat Conference (M) also demonstrated at Lal Bazar area. A party spokesman said that after Friday prayers activists that included Mushtaq Ahmed Sofi, Advocate Yasir Dalal, Farooq Ahmed Saudagar and others held a protest demonstration and shouted “Asifa kay katilon ko phansi dou, hang the murderers of Asifa.” The protestors also called for an end to bloodshed in Kashmir.
Hurriyat Conference (G) activists demonstrated at Hyderpora after Friday prayers and called for an exemplary punishment to the culprits in the girl’s rape and murder.
Hurriyat (G) activists Syed Mohammad Shafi, Rameez Raja, Mudasir Ahmad, Sajad Ahmad Mir, Abdul Ahad, Sajad Ahmad Pala, Ishfaq Ahmad Khan, Gowhar Ahmad and Mohammad Umar and others participated in the protest.
Addressing the people, the protesting leaders said: “Growing Indian aggression against unarmed and peaceful people has touched the alarming line and turned this beautiful place into a battle field. Under a well thought out plan, forces and their henchmen are carrying out genocide in Kashmir.” Traders in Khanyar under the banner of Gousia Traders Association asked the government to act against the Jammu lawyers who tried to stop the Crime Branch from filing the charge sheet in the girl’s rape and murder case in a court.
“Acts like this have pained every Kashmir and to protest against it is our right,” said the protesting traders who had gathered outside the revered shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA).
The protesting traders were also joined by locals who demanded capital punishment to the culprits.
“It is a shame to call those thugs lawyers who are playing communal politics over this gruesome crime and are creating hurdles in legal process,” said Muhammad Latief Sofi, president of the association.
Protests were also held in Nowgam, Batamaloo, Chanapora and many other areas of Srinagar, and Dalipora in Pulwama, where the protesters also shouted slogans in favour of slain Hizb militant Musavir Hussain.
Later, clashes broke out at Muran Chowk, Pulwama, after Friday prayers where protesters threw stones at the police and paramilitary forces. A group of residents also staged protest at Awantipore, accusing the forces of damaging the minaret of local Jamia Masjid. A witness said that clashes were reported in Tral area of Pulwama post Friday prayers.
Local youths organised a candle light protest at Muran Chowk later.
Protest rallies were held in Shopian and Kulgam districts and Bijbehera area of Anantnag town.
A complete shutdown was observed in Banihal on the second consecutive day over rape and murder of Asifa and the killings in Kashmir. A witness said people took out a protest march from Central Jamia Masjid Banihal after Friday prayers against the rape and murder of Asifa.
“Protestors also burnt the effigies of cabinet minister Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Parkash Ganga,” a witness said. The traffic on highway also ffected for some time due to protests on Jammu – Srinagar highway.