Despite warning by Army Chief, protesters wave Pakistani flags

Indo Asian News Service

Srinagar, Feb 17 (IANS) Days after Army Chief General Bipin Rawat warned of action against Kashmiri youth displaying Pakistani flags or supporting militants, clashes erupted at several places after Friday prayers between security forces and agitating mobs in the Kashmir Valley.

A large number of youths gathered in Srinagar's Nowhatta, and waved the Islamic State and Pakistani flags after which the security forces intervened to disperse them.

Clashes followed as the youths protested, chanted pro-freedom slogans and pelted stones at the security forces who used tear gas and charged them with batons.

In north Kashmir's Sopore town, protesters, shouting anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans, also indulged in stone throwing.

General Rawat had on Wednesday warned the locals against supporting militants and those displaying Pakistani flags.

"We (Army) will request locals in Kashmir that people who have picked up arms -- and these are local boys -- and if they want to continue with acts of terrorism by displaying flags of the Islamic State and Pakistan, we will treat them as anti-national elements and go after them."

The statement received criticism from the opposition parties and the separatist groups as well.

The National Conference termed the Army Chief's statement as an "alarming sign of the sense of alienation and disenchantment in Kashmir".

"The need of the hour is to understand and acknowledge the deep sense of isolation in Kashmir and deal with it with statesmanship and magnanimity," the party said in a statement on Thursday.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad attacked the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and alleged that the statement made by the Army Chief was motivated by political interests.

"Bipin Rawat's threatening statement is unjustified and it can be the Centre's policy, not the Army's," Azad told the media.

Kashmir's separatist camp also spoke on the same lines and said the statement was "threatening and scary".

"India won't hesitate to kill each soul for this purpose," Huriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, another senior Huriyat leader, said that it "reflects a tyrannical mindset towards the people of Kashmir".

Despite no call for shutdown or protests by the separatist group on Friday, clashes between youth and security occurred at many places post the Friday prayers.

--IANS

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