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Protests against Afzal's death sentence continue
October 06, 2006 18:43 IST
Police used teargas and batons to disperse stone-throwing youths as hundreds of people took to the streets in the Kashmir valley after Friday prayers to demand revoking of the death sentence on Mohammad Afzal Guru for his role in the attack on Parliament in 2001.
Groups of youth pelted police with stones at Maisuma and in adjoining localities while shouting pro-Afzal slogans, prompting police to fire teargas shells to restore order, officials said.
Police were deployed in strength in the area, which witnessed clashes Thursday after the security forces lifted the cordon thrown around it during the over 20-hour gun-battle near the Dashnami Akhara.
Ten persons, including seven securitymen and two militants, were killed and 18 injured in the encounter.
Shopkeepers downed shutters in the area to mourn the death of a civilian and in fear of more clashes between the police and protestors demanding handing over of the bodies of the militants. Violent protests rocked several localities and a demonstration was staged outside Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar.
The demonstrators, mostly supporters and activists of the Hurriyat moderates, tried to take out a procession but were stopped by police, who fired teargas shells and used batons to chase the stone-pelting youth away, the officials said adding that no one was injured in the clashes.
Reports of peaceful demonstrations were received from almost all districts of the Kashmir valley, the officials said adding that people staged demonstrations after Friday prayers and dispersed peacefully.
Addressing a congregation in Anantnag district, Hurriyat hardline faction chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani threatened to continue protests unless the death sentence on Afzal was revoked and said they did not want it commuted. Geelani alleged that Afzal was falsely implicated in the case and not even given an opportunity to defend himself.
Meanwhile, the death sentence has created a divide between the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley with political leaders and citizens taking to streets on the same issue but with different demands.
In Jammu, students and political parties like the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party organised protests to demand the resignation of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad for favouring clemency for Guru, while separatists in the Kashmir Valley took to streets to demand his immediate release.
The temple city of Jammu, where many were angered by the chief minister's stand on the issue, saw nearly 2,000 students joining a protest against Azad's statements. Shouting slogans against Azad and his Congress party, they urged President A P J Abdul Kalam not to show mercy to Guru.
Protests were also organised in nearby Sambha town, where Shiv Saniks burnt Azad's effigy. Bahujan Samaj Party workers led anti-Guru protests and flayed Azad for making "anti-India" statements.