Demonstrations were staged in areas of Srinagar downtown in protest against heckling of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, head of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference by a group of people in Chandigarh during a seminar.

Soon after the news spread, supporters of the Mirwaiz took to the streets in Nowhatta, Rajouri Kadal and other areas shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. Shops were also shut in protest. Demanding stern action against the hecklers, the protesters said: “we will give our blood for the leader.”

The police said there were some incidents of stone pelting, but the “situation is under control.” The government is likely to impose curfew in the area on Friday. Condemning the attack, hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, who himself was heckled in New Delhi on October 21, termed it a display of “frustration” by those who “don not want to listen about the ground reality in Kashmir.” He said, “They are fascists and you cannot help it.”

Pro-freedom leader Shabir Ahmad Shah was also heckled by right wing activists in Jammu in the first week of this month.

“It's bound to happen”

However, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said it was “bound to happen” as “it is people's reaction to their [Hurriyat leaders'] politics and policies.” “I don't condone it,” he added.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function, he said, “I don't condone it. People react to the policies and politics of Hurriyat Conference, so the heckling incidents are bound to happen.”

Stating that he was proud of the Indian democracy, which has given enough freedom to everyone to express his or her opinion, he said, “And there has always been a battle of ideas and ideologies.”Meanwhile, his arch rival, People's Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, strongly condemned the attack. She said roughing up of prominent religious and political leaders of Kashmir was highly condemnable. It had to be disapproved by anyone believing in freedom of speech.

“Right to express one's views is a fundamental right and any attempt to curb it through illegal and strong arm methods is fascist and undemocratic. In any case, the Mirwaiz was only attending a seminar with a view to exchanging of ideas in a peaceful, civilized and democratic manner. The intolerance shown by the attackers is an antithesis of that spirit and strong action should be taken against them.” she said.

The Mirwaiz is the third Kashmir-based pro-freedom leader who was heckled by activists of hard-line Kashmiri Pandit organisations and activists of right-wing parties in various functions within and outside the State.

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