//Black warrants against Afzal heighten tensions in Kashmir

Black warrants against Afzal heighten tensions in Kashmir

Srinagar, Sep 28 (IANS) A separatist group in Jammu and Kashmir has warned of 'dire consequences' if parliament attacker Mohammad Afzal is hanged even as another frontline group called for a day's shutdown on Friday to protest the decision.

A caller identifying himself as Sadaqat Hussain, spokesman for the Muzaffarabad-based United Jehad Council (UJC), phoned a local news agency here Wednesday evening warning India of dire consequences if it went ahead with the hanging of Mohammad Afzal, the convict in the Indian parliament attack Dec 13 2001.

"It is a clear violation of human rights. Afzal has been framed in a false case and if India decides to hang him, they will have to pay a heavy price for the murder of this innocent Kashmiri", Hussain said.

Senior separatist leader and chairman of the breakaway Hurriyat group Syed Ali Geelani called for a general shutdown Friday to protest the decision to hang Afzal Oct 20 in Tihar Jail.

Geelani's shutdown call has been supported by frontline local guerrilla group Hizbul Mujahideen.

Protesting the death sentence, pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) activists led by chairman Yasin Malik staged a rally in city centre Lal Chowk and later indulged in throwing stones.

Police fired teargas shells and used batons to disperse the protesters. The JKLF chief and some of his supporters were later detained by the police.

Shopkeepers downed their shutters in Lal Chowk as authorities beefed up the security.

"We are with you, Afzal," shouted burqa-clad activists of women's separatist group, Dukhtarani Milat, as they marched in the civil line area.

The women activists blocked traffic in Lal Chowk before police dispersed them.

Meanwhile, Yusuf Tarigama, general secretary of the state unit of Communist Party of India-Marxist and sitting legislator in the 87-member Jammu and Kashmir assembly told reporters that he had sought an audience with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam along with some other politicians, intellectuals and journalists to plead for the president's pardon for Afzal.

"I don't want to go into the legality of the court decision to hang Afzal. All I am going to tell the President of the country is that his hanging would vitiate the Peace process which India and Pakistan are presently pursuing", Tarigama, who is presently in New Delhi, told media persons on phone in Srinagar.

Around 1,000 students of the Kashmir University boycotted classes and shouted slogans in favour of Afzal inside the campus here.

Protests were also held in north Kashmir's Sopore town which is adjacent to Afzal's ancestral village in Baramulla district.

Similar protests were reported from Bandipora town where shops and traffic remained closed for the day.

Mehbooba Mufti, president of the People's Democratic Party which is an alliance partner in the coalition government headed by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, has said she spoke about Afzal's pardon to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when she met him in New Delhi.

According to her, the hanging of Afzal at this crucial moment, when the peace process was gaining ground between India and Pakistan, would result in heightening of tensions locally.