Srinagar witnesses widespread protests over Innocence of Muslims


The J&K Police had to deal with angry mobs agitating against the American film that had left Benghazi tense recently

Riyaz Wani 

Photos: Faisal Khan

The Valley on Friday experienced angry protests over the anti-Islam film, which mocks Prophet Mohammad. The protests started post congregational prayers outside many mosques and shrines in Srinagar, and later spread to suburbs.

The call for the protests had been given by the hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who along with other separatist leaders, had been placed under house arrest.

J&K government has already asked the Union Telecommunication Ministry to block the controversial trailer on YouTube and other social networking sites, which led to attacks on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, leading to the death of American ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other officials. The film, which deemed as offensive to Muslims, has given way to world-wide protests. “We have asked the Central government to block the Innocence of Muslims video on YouTube. This can cause law and order problem here,” said Home Commissioner BR Sharma.

Protests started immediately after the prayers at the volatile city areas of Maisuma, Hawal, Nowhatta and Rainawari. The Grand Mosque was first to witness trouble. Soon after the prayers ended, people spilled over onto the streets and began shouting slogans against the USA and Israel. In some places, protesters burnt American flags. Protesters also visited Srinagar’s commercial hub Lal Chowk, where shopkeepers downed their shutters in response to the protests. However, when the mob threatened to turn violent, police used force and fired tear gas shells. This, though breaking up the crowd, hardly quelled the anger.

There was, however, an attempt by the police to not take any stringent action against the protesters and allow them to vent their hurt sentiments so long as there was no violence.

Protests were also reported from Srinagar’s suburbs and further down in district headquarters. There were protests in Baramulla, Sopore, Palhalan, Budgam and south Kashmir town of Anantnag.

In Kupwara, around 15 people were injured when police used force against the demonstrators. The Hollywood film, The Message, was screened during a youth employment and guidance exhibition organised by the Army at Lolab to educate and guide the youth on various employment avenues. However, while the first part of movie was being screened, the people mistook it for the controversial American movie and started protesting.

“Elders, police and Army personnel explained the facts that the movie is an acknowledged epic on the story of Islam. However, the miscreants did not heed the appeal and involved other local people in the protest,” a statement issued by the Army said. Subsequently, the police was called to the site and tried to reason and pacify the agitating crowd but to no avail. The police later resorted to force to quell the mob.

Earlier in the day, lawyers marched in a protest through the Civil Lines area. They also boycotted the courts.

Separatists issued appeals of maintaining calm. “We are against violence. But people should be allowed to give vent to their hurt religious sentiments,” said the spokesman for Geelani’s Hurriyat Ayaz Akber. He also condemned the house arrest of Geelani.

Friday’s protests were the first since September 2010 that Kashmir has witnessed over blasphemy. In 2010, 10 people were killed in protests in the Valley when the US pastor John Terry had burnt copies of the Holy Quran. The state government then had done the same—asked the Centre to block the video of the Quran being burnt by Terry on social networking sites.

Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.
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Protesters attack the US Consulate in Chennai over anti-Islam film

S Ramaswamy

A mob of demonstrators attacked the fortified US Consulate in Chennai protesting against the anti-Islam film and demanding action against the US film makers.

About 800 activists of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, a Muslim outfit, broke through the police barricade and pelted stones at the US Consulate, smashing the window panes and the surveillance camera, installed at the main gate.

The evening traffic on the arterial Anna Road and the busy Cathedral Road came to a grinding halt as the protesters blocked traffic and rushed to storm the Consulate, which is situated near the Cathedral Church and Gemini Fly-over, a city landmark, taking the police by surprise.

“They smashed the window panes, surveillance camera and tried to scale over the compound wall, but we dispersed them, while exercising restraint,” a senior police officer said.

“We have tightened the security and the situation is well under control,” City Police Commissioner JK Tripathy said. About 86 people who indulged in stone throwing have been arrested, he said.

An eye witness said that the protesters perched on the iron grill, erected above the compound wall as part of tightening the security. They used the iron barricades to climb over the 15 ft high compound wall, the witness said.

“The protesters came in batches from the nearby Thousand Lights mosque, also burnt the US flag and US President Barack Obama’s effigy. One group hurled stones, while others used the iron barricades placed in front of the main gate to smash the window panes,” police said.



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