Anantnag, July 26: Nocturnal protests broke out in parts of south Kashmir on Monday night as thousands of angry men and women rallied against civilian killings by security forces during the current unrest in the valley.
Witnesses and officials said the fresh protests in Anantnag town, some 50 km from Srinagar, began in the dead of the night when people in large numbers came out of their houses and marched on the streets.
Police and security forces had earlier moved back to their camps after they successfully foiled a separatist-called march to the Anantnag town square where they had planned to address a gathering during the day.
People during the day had gathered in the town in large numbers but were chased away by police and paramilitary troopers.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were detained earlier in the day in Srinagar as they defied police restrictions in a bid to march to Anantnag.
Officials said that some during the nocturnal march set afire a state irrigation building that lies on the Hindu pilgrim route to the Amarnath cave shrine. The protests continued till early Tuesday morning.
Protests were also held in the nearby Achabal town where thousands of people surrounded a police station against the alleged arrest and beating up of four youths, including three teens.
The youngest arrested is said to be 13 years old. Protesters alleged that the youths were arrested for throwing stones
They said police and paramilitary troopers brutally beat up the arrested youth. They were then denied medical assistance and continue to be with police, the protesters alleged.
Cries of “Azadi, Azadi” rang out in Achabal, known for its Mughal Garden and its springs, as the crowd, with women leading the protesters, marched on the streets.
Mosque loudspeakers asking people to come out on the streets fuelled the public anger.
However, while the anger was palpable, there was no violence so far – from either side. “The protesters have been told not to indulge in violence – and peace seems to be holding,” said a bystander.
Residents from nearby villages continued to pour in groups of 50 and 100 and gathered at Achabal town to join the protests till early Tuesday morning.
People from nearby houses provided food to the protesters during the night long vigil.
They, however, dispersed for morning prayers after which police and paramilitary troopers were redeployed to enforce the curfew that has been on since July 9 – a day after the killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani.
South Kashmir has been the worst hit in the current turmoil. Most of the nearly 50 deaths have been from this region.
Around 2,000 people in Achabal town alone have received pellet gun injuries. Four people were killed in the town in the protests that followed Wani’s killing.
Tuesday was the 18th day of curfew in a row in south Kashmir, without any relaxation.