SRINAGAR: Kashmir witnessed shutdown, protests and clashes on Friday against issuance of identity certificates to West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) by the PDP-BJP coalition government while police detained pro-independence JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik when he was leading a protest demonstration.
All shops, business establishments and petrol pumps in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley remained closed while public transport was off the roads. The attendance in government offices and banks was affected by the strike.
Authorities had deployed large number of police and paramilitary personnel in sensitive areas of Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir to maintain law and order and prevent anti-India protests.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, who spearheaded the over five month long unrest in the Valley after killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, had called for shutdown and protests today against the issuance of identity certificates to WPRs.
After clearance from Union Home Ministry, the J&K government had started issuing the identity certificates to WPRs. The issuance of identity certificates to WPRs is turning out to be another headache for the PDP-BJP government as separatists, opposition National Conference and Congress and Kashmir-based legislators are strongly opposing the move.
The WPRs are living in seven border districts of Jammu province since 1947 but have not been granted the State citizenship by successive J&K government. They can vote in parliamentary elections but not in State Assembly polls.
At least 5800 families from Sialkote, Pakistan had settled in border districts in J&K after partition in 1947. At present 19960 WPR families, according to West Pakistani Refugees Action Committee, are living in different areas of Jammu.
On the call of separatists, youth tool to roads at uptown area of Batamaloo in Srinagar and protested against issuance of identity certificates to WPRs.
The youth pelted stones on police and paramilitary personnel after they intercepted them. The cops fired tear smoke shells to disperse them and the clashes continued for about an hour during which protestors hurled a petrol bomb towards the police vehicle.
JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik reached South Kashmir’ Pulwama town early this morning. He led a protest demonstration against the issuance of domicile certificate to WPRs in the afternoon.
However, Malik was arrested by police and lodged in a nearby police station. His arrest triggered clashes in the area, which continued for over an hour.
At least eight persons were injured in clashes between stone pelting youth and security personnel in Samboora area of Pulwama district. The clashes were triggered after security personnel cordoned the area to conduct search operation.
The clashes were also reported from Tral in South Kashmir, Bandipora, Sopore and many other areas in North Kashmir and some other parts of the Valley.
Moderate Hurriyat Conference leader and cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said refugees are refugees, be they from West Pakistan or Rohingya and cannot get state subjects rights. “The WP refugees already have Adhaaar and election cards as proof of identification for seeking jobs in India so no one is going to buy the identification certificate theory of the government”.
“All designs and ploys to challenge the dispute nature of Jammu and Kashmir by BJP and PDP will be opposed and resisted,” he added.