At least 50 people, including women worshipers were injured Friday inside and around the historic Jamia Masjid at Nowhatta as hundreds of protestors clashed with police and paramilitary forces that fired the indiscriminate pellet guns and tear smoke shells.
The injured also include two senior police officers — SDPO and SHO – and one CRPF constable.
The clashes happened soon after Friday congregational prayers, and turned more intense as pellets fired by the government forces landed inside the grand mosque leaving many dripping with blood and staining its floor.
Some youth who were trying to leave the mosque were further angered at seeing the floor of the central mosque splattered with fresh blood, adding to the commotion. Police and paramilitary troopers soon closed off the mosque gates.
“Pellets were raining inside the compound of Jamia and people of all ages were falling on ground. Many of them were running for cover unmindful of the pellet injuries already caused to them,” said a witness, Reyaz Ahmed, who also got stuck inside.
“It was mayhem.”
A video showing blood stains on the floor of Jamia Masjid went viral on media evoking sharp criticism and condemnations against the forces by netizens.
A picture of a police official firing pellets at one of the main entrance gates of the Jamia Masjid was also widely shared.
Another witness said as the news of blood splattered on the mosque floor spread hundreds more youth joined the protest.
“This was when clashes intensified,” he said, declining to give his name.
As government forces were pushing the protestors back, many tried to open the mosque gates to take refuge inside from the raining pellets, while those inside were trying to come out.
“Everybody was trying to come out but the gates were closed. Then repeated announcements were made on the loudspeakers of the masjid asking police to allow worshippers to leave the grand mosque,” another witness Saqib Ahmed said.
“The announcement was also for taking the injured out.”
Some of the injured were taken to hospital while doctors who had come to worship treated some on the spot.
A doctor at the SMHS confirmed that 15 youth were received with pellet injuries.
“Eleven have been hit by pellets in their eyes,” he said.
Angered at the government forces’ action, Kashmir’s chief cleric at the Jamia and Hurriyat Conference leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq took to twitter for condemning it.
“Heavy deployment of Govt forces around #Jama Masjid even in this holy month leading to tension& agitation. Dozens of civilians injured after forces resorted to pellet &teargas shelling! large number of people unable to come out of the mosque. Condemn the deployment and forces action,” the Mirwaiz posted on Twitter.
Mosque closed for prayers
A spokesman of the Anjuam-e-Auqaf Jamia Masjid Srinagar, that manages the grand mosque, said it was closed for prayers until cleaned.
“It is mandatory under Islamic rules to clear the blood from the place of worship. We can’t offer prayers on a floor where there are blood stains. We are cleaning it with water and detergent,” he said.
“Injuring youth inside the masjid, amounts to desecration of the grand masjid.”
Condemned the forces’ action, Shahr-e-Khass Coordination Committee (SKCC), an amalgam of various trade bodies of Downtown called for a complete shutdown in the area on Saturday.
“We strongly condemn the indiscriminate firing of pellets and tear gas shells inside the grand masjid, at the shopkeepers and at the youth. We urge the people of downtown including shopkeepers to protest against it.”
A police spokesman said, “As soon as the Friday prayers concluded, a huge gathering of youth started brandishing anti-national flags, banners, and started heavy stone pelting on forces, who were deployed away from the Jamia Masjid near Nowhatta Chowk.”
“During stone pelting, dozens of police and CRPF men got injured that include SDPO Khanyar, SHO Nowhatta as well. One of the CRPF personnel sustained serious head injury,” the spokesman said.
“700 to 800 miscreants assembled near the main gate of Jamia Masjid and again started heavy stone pelting on the forces. However, forces showed utmost restraint and some ammunition was used to disperse the miscreants and hence minimal force was used to control the situation.”