Sheikh Imran Bashir
Srinagar: The Army has been deployed in Srinagar to assist the state administration in maintaining law and order as indefinite curfew continued in the city and other parts of the Kashmir valley for the second day Wednesday after fresh violent protests left four more civilians dead in last two days and over 80 injured, including police and CRPF troopers.
Union Home Secretary GK Pillai too has left for the Valley to review the situation as violent protests over the last fortnight have marred what was till now one of the most peaceful summers in Kashmir.
Army columns were deployed in the entire city which saw widespread violence in Batmaloo and Maisuma locality. Curfew was in force in Anantnag, Pampore, Pulwama and Kulgam in South Kashmir and Kupwara and Bandipora in North Kashmir.
Restrictions were in force at Sopore and Baramulla, north Kashmir also staged a flag march.
The flag march by the Army in Srinagar and a high level meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence showed that the Government was making it very clear that it was alarmed by the sudden escalation in violence in the Kashmir Valley after four civilians died in firing by security force in the last couple of days.
But while the Army’s presence ensured no protests on Wednesday, many criticised the decision to bring the Army out of the barracks at all, calling it a panic reaction by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
“Right from the beginning after these killings took place the response of the state government and the Central Government has been very provocative. They have tried demonise the boys who are on the roads,” People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti says.
Even as army staged a flag march in curfew-bound Srinagar today, people took to the streets and staged demonstrations at several places in Sopore and Baramulla while in the rest of the valley including old city here people thronged Mosques and raised pro-freedom slogans.
Barring Pattan, 30 kms from here in Baramulla district, where groups of youth resorted to stone pelting, demonstrations at main chowk Sopore, Chankan, Ashpir, Amargarh, Cemet Bridge, Khwaja Bagh, Old Town Baramulla, Kreeri, Palhallan, and Jamia Kadeem remained peaceful, police sources said.
Reports from Ganderbal said that protesters clashed with CRPF and police. Police used teargas and fired aerial shots to disperse the protesters.
In the late night, when none of any army, paramilitary force or police have been seen in the Batamalloo area, in uptown people came out from their homes and raised pro-freedom slogans and protest on the dark roads.
Army, whose services were requisitioned by the state last night in the wake of killing of three persons in Srinagar, moved in and staged a flag march at 10.30 am on Srinagar-Airport road and later moved to Lal Chowk.
Commenting on the decision of handing over the valley to the army, The Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that unfortunately the army has always been India’s first and last resort in handling Kashmir. It’s ever increasing presence in the state whether in the barracks or on the streets for the past 62 years has been with the intention of consolidating its control over the territory of Jammu and Kashmir on one hand and intimidating and instilling fear in the people on the other, Mirwaiz said in statement.
Besides the flag march the Army made its presence felt across the Valley moving in on the national highways and the airport road, spreading out in Srinagar suburbs to seal exit and entry points, ensuring a very strict curfew was enforced in the city and was on standby in Baramulla, Sopore and Anantnag. But it won’t be called in for crowd control.
“All preparatory action by us has been taken which includes liaison with the police and civil administration. The request has been forwarded to our headquarters and action will be taken accordingly,” Army spokesman Lt Col JS Brar says.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had appealed to the people to maintain calm and not to violate curfew restrictions.
Meanwhile authorities have cancelled all the curfew passes issued to media-persons. The police and security forces have been directed not to allow any journalist to move in the city.
Police are not allowing media-persons and scribes to come out and discharge their professional duties in curfew bound city.
Mehraj Udin, a senior journalist of Associated Press Television News, told Agence India Press that police and paramilitary force does not allow us to discharge our duty as they are not allowing us to move from our offices.
“Policemen are not honoring the curfew passes issued by the District Magistrate,” a group of photojournalists told Agence India Press on Wednesday.
The CRPF and police personnel stopped several media persons including correspondent of a news channel who were on way to the offices to report the events.
Arshid Mir, a photojournalist told Agence India Press that, government just want to hide the facts, as we believe in truths and facts; our job is just to bring an actual picture in front of people.
This is like murder activity on the freedom of press by the government he further added.
An bureau chief of NDTV in Kashmir, Nazir Masoodi said, that we were was doing live programme outside the office premises and within no time police with some senior officers came their and told us to stop transmission and go inside the office, when we ask for the reason they snatched our camera and suspend our work.
The Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Mehraj Ahmed Kakroo on Wednesday said that all curfew passes have been cancelled.
“Army is out and curfew passes are not being entertained,” said Kakroo.
Creepy calm prevailed in the Srinagar city on Wednesday amid army staging flag march and police and paramilitary CRPF troopers enforcing curfew strictly.
Reports from old city said that hundreds of force personnel were deployed in the volatile areas and they didn’t allow people to come out of their homes.
However, reports were also received from Batmaloo area where three persons including a 24-year old girl Fancy Jan were killed in police and CRPF action since Monday evening.
No one was even allowed to peep out of his home in volatile Maisuma locality where a youth Abrar Ahmed fell to CRPF bullets on Tuesday evening.
Life remained paralyzed in the entire city with people remaining indoors and only forces personnel patrolling the deserted streets.
Soldiers in machine gun mounted vehicles drove through various localities of this Jammu and Kashmir summer capital, including the city centre Lal Chowk, Batamaloo, Bemina and Qamarwari localities. Earlier in the day, the Army, this has been called in after the state government’s request, marched on the airport road.
Meanwhile In a major crackdown, Jammu and Kashmir police today arrested Mian Qayoom, President of Kashmir Bar Association, under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).
Qayoom has been sent to Hiranagar Prison in Jammu for two years, official sources said.
The state police have launched a major crackdown against mischief-makers throughout the valley.
More than 12 separatist leaders such as Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik continue to be behind the bars in the state.
Fresh violence broke out in Kashmir Valley on Tuesday after 5 days of calm, leaving four persons dead and over 70 injured following which indefinite curfew was clamped in Srinagar.
Till last month New Delhi was measuring normalcy in the Valley in terms of the number of tourists flooding it, today, a tourist said he couldn’t make it into the city without trouble. A wake-up call perhaps for the Centre, which has also sent Union Home Secretary GK Pillai and the Director General of Military Operations to review law and order in Srinagar.