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Srinagar protests continue for third day

By Mukhtar Ahmed in Srinagar
June 26, 2008 19:44 IST
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Violent protests continued throughout the capital Srinagar and other towns on Thursday against the allotment of forest land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board as the Kashmir valley remained shut for the third consecutive day.

Slogan-shouting protestors clashed with police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force across the summer capital Srinagar and other major and minor valley towns which left over 40 persons wounded.

Apart from baton charges and teargas shells, the police used stun grenades and fired warning shots at several places to break up the highly charged demonstrators.

The only life on the city roads were either the police and paramilitary forces or the demonstrators. The police opened fire at Kawdara in the old city on Thursday afternoon injuring a youth identified as Zeeshan Bashir. Bashir was taken to Sri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital for treatment.

The killing of two youths on Wednesday evening seems to have triggered Thursday's intensified protests in the city and other towns of Anantnag, Sopore and Kupwara.

Hundreds of people surrounded a paramilitary bunker in the Fateh Kadal locality in old city this morning shouting slogans against the killing of Sameer Ahmad in the locality. Residents alleged the paramilitary CRPF troopers manning the bunker were involved in the shooting of protestors on Wednesday.

Ganderbal, a town on the northern Baltel route to the cave shrine continued to remain tense as movement of yatris had to be halted again today following protests at Hazratbal and at Ganderbal. Angry protestors took out a procession in Ganderbal and the police had to resort to teargas shelling and baton charges to chase them away.

The protests spread to Sopore town, Kupwara and Handwara where shops and businesses remained shut.

After a day's suspension, the Amarnath yatra resumed today, but the vehicles carrying pilgrims from Jammu had to halted near Qazigund, the valley's entry point, following protests and clashes in the Anantnag town in south Kashmir.

Giving the police version of the situation, Kashmir inspector general of police, S M Sahai in a statement said that police and paramilitary forces were exercising utmost restraint in dealing with the situation.

Sahai said, "Vehicles carrying tourists and yatris have been damaged which has hurt the economy of Kashmir. The tourist inflow has dropped."

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Mukhtar Ahmed in Srinagar