NATIONAL

Protests in Kashmir against excavation near Jerusalem mosque

VENTING THEIR IRE: Demonstrators pelting stones during an anti-Israel demonstration in Srinagar on Friday.

VENTING THEIR IRE: Demonstrators pelting stones during an anti-Israel demonstration in Srinagar on Friday.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: Nissar Ahmad

Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR: Violent protests at several places in Kashmir, coupled with a general strike called by militant organisations, against an Israeli excavation near Jerusalem's Masjid Al Aqsa paralysed normal life in the city on Friday.

Most shops and business establishments remained closed. Other major towns also responded to the call given by the Jamiatul Mujahideen militant group. The protests turned violent soon after Friday prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar. A group of youths, who took out a protest march in Maisuma and later from Chota Bazar, clashed with the police who used lathis and lobbed smoke shells to quell the mob. A dozen people, including some policemen, were injured. The preachers in their sermons called for a sustained campaign against Israeli occupation and described the excavation as ``interference in religion.''

Masjid Al Aqsa is the third most sacred place for Muslims. The religious leaders said Israel was carrying out ``its sinister plan'' with American patronage and ``America has already created havoc with the Muslim world.'' Jamiatul Mujahideen spokesman Jamil Ahmad told a local news agency that it was the need of the hour to be united against these designs. He thanked the people of Kashmir for observing the strike.

Sivarathri celebrated

The Kashmiri Pandit community on Thursday celebrated Shivratri, popularly known as ``Herath'' in Kashmiri, with traditional gaiety and fervour. Muslims visited their Pandit neighbours and greeted their friends and erstwhile neighbours in Delhi, Jammu and other places over the phone.

A number of devotees thronged the temples and prayed for return of peace to the valley. At Sarai Bala in Srinagar a unique display of traditional amity was witnessed when Muslims offered Friday prayers in a temple. Governor S. K. Sinha, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah and other political leaders greeted the Pandit community.

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