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Activists target Hurriyat amid wave of anti-terror protests in Kashmir over Pandit’s killing 

Signboard of the separatist Hurriyat Conference at its Srinagar headquarters being dismantled by the local civil society activists

For the first time since its creation in 1993, the signboard of the separatist Hurriyat Conference at its Srinagar headquarters has been dismantled by the local civil society activists amid widespread protests over the assassination of a Kashmiri Pandit on Monday. Permanent resident Puran Krishen Bhat was shot dead by unidentified terrorists at his home in Choudhri Gund village of Shopian in southern Kashmir last Saturday.    

With the condemnation states and tweets pouring in from a number of political parties and leaders, scores of youths on the campaign ‘Aakhir Kab Tak’ gathered at the Hurriyat Conference headquarters in Rajbagh. In their vociferous protest against Bhat’s killing, they shouted slogans against Pakistan and the valley’s separatist leaders, holding them responsible for all innocent civilian killings.

Some of the youths climbed on the Hurriyat Headquarters main gate and dismantled the separatist conglomerate’s board. Later, they painted ‘India, India’ on the gate. The unmasked protesters, known for their anti-Pakistan and anti-terrorist demonstrations called themselves as peace and social activists. They claimed that they were not associated with any political party.

As the unprecedented drama unfolded at the Hurriyat headquarters, the people around continued their business as usual. There was no resistance to the demonstration or the protestors’ act of bringing down the separatist amalgam’s signboard. Nobody showed any sign of displeasure.

Even as on one occasion around 20 years back, clashes occurred between two factions of the Hurriyat, it was for the first time in the last 29 years of the conglomerate that the local youths shouted slogans and brought down its signboard in broad daylight. The Hurriyat offices have remained closed after the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir in August 2019. Some of the separatist organisations like JKLF and Jamaat-e-Islami, which existed as Hurriyat’s constituents, have been outlawed after the killing of 40 CRPF men in February 2019. However, neither the conglomerate nor its other constituents have been banned by the Government.

Widespread protests over Puran Krishen Bhat’s killing were reported from almost all the 10 district headquarters in the Kashmir valley on Sunday. The first candle light demonstrations were staged in Bhat’s home district of Shopian where the militants’ writ is still running large. Reports of the similar protests also poured in from Bandipora, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Kupwara, Kulgam, Anantnag and Srinagar.

The demonstrators expressed solidarity with the family of the deceased. This is for the second time when protests were held against the killing of the members of the minority community in Kashmir. On 16 August, the civil society members held a candlelight protest against the killing of a resident Pandit, Suni Kumar who was also gunned down at his home in Chotigam, Shopian.

Various civil society groups of Srinagar lodged their protest at Lal Chowk against the killing of the Kashmiri Pandit member in Shopian on Saturday. People from all walks of life participated in the peaceful candlelight march and expressed solidarity with the family of the deceased.

People in large numbers also took out a protest rally in south Kashmir’s Shopian district against the targeted killing of a minority community member in the area. Denouncing the killing of innocent civilians, the employees from various government departments took out a rally from the District Magistrate’s office. Carrying placards and loudspeakers, the protesting employees raised slogans ‘Masoomon ka qatl-e-aam band karo’ and ‘Puran Krishan Amar Rahe’. The rally signed off at Gole Chakri Shopian where the protesters lit candles in remembrance of Bhat.

An official spokesman said in a statement that the peaceful demonstrations were held in the main town Shopian which saw the participation of hundreds of people in the district. People who participated in the long candlelight march across the town shouted slogans against the innocent civilian killing and expressed solidarity with the family of the victim. In Kulgam too, local social activists staged a candlelight march.

People in the northern Kashmir headquarters of Baramulla, who included traders, NGOs, and political leaders, also took out a candlelight march in protest against the killing of the minority community member. The Jammu and Kashmir Students Welfare Forum (JKSWF) also held a protest at Magam.

A netizen Owais Nanda tweeted with a picture: “Octogenarian Ahad Kak joined us in registering our solidarity with the fallen KP brother Puran Krishan Bhat. Holding the lit candle, standing silently, it’s as if Kak was screaming ‘Enough is enough. Spill not our innocent blood. Enough is enough”.

A peace rally-cum-candle march was held at the district headquarters of Kupwara. An official spokesman said that the rally originated from Fountain Point Derzipora Kupwara, wended its way through the bypass and culminated at the DC’s Office. DC Kupwara Doifode Sagar Dattatray, District Development Council (DDC) Vice Chairman Farooq Ahmad Mir, Municipal Council Kupwara Chairman Riyaz Ahmad Mir, Traders Federation Kupwara President Showkat Masoodi, BJP District President Abdul Rehman, Kupwara Bus Stand President Muhammad Shafi Mir were all in the rally. Slogans like ‘stop innocent killings’ and ‘stop terrorism in Kashmir’ were written on the banners carried by elected PRIs and senior citizens of Kupwara district.

Peaceful demonstrations in the form of candlelight marches were also held across Bandipora district. An official spokesman said that these demonstrations were held in all three major towns Bandipora, Sumbal, and Gurez. Several persons including civil society members, traders associations, and others participated in the evening marches. The participants raised slogans against the civilian killing and expressed solidarity with the family of the victim. Later, the participants held candle marches at Bandipora, Sumbal and Dawar Gurez.

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