Kashmir calm but tense as curfew, shutdown continue
Srinagar: The restive Kashmir Valley, battling the deadliest spell of violence in years, appeared calm but tense on Wednesday amid sporadic incidents of stone-pelting clashes even as large areas continued to be under strict curfew for the fifth day.
Two more persons wounded in street fighting in the past four days died here early on Wednesday, taking the death toll to 36 in the violence triggered by the death of a top militant on July 8.
Life remained paralysed almost across the valley due to the restriction and separatist called shutdown. South Kashmir – the worst hit in the latest bout of unrest – was virtually cut off from the rest of the state amid snapped private cellphone services and strict prohibitory orders.
However, the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) cellphone network was functional.
The Jammu-Srinagar highway, the only all-weather motorable link to the valley that passes through south Kashmir, was blocked due to continuous curfew. Private traffic to and from Srinagar on the highway is allowed only at night, officials said.
In Srinagar, roads were deserted while shops and other businesses, banks and private offices were closed. There was a thin presence of employees in the government secretariat. People in the old city complained of hardships as supplies of essentials had begun to dry up in the five days of curfew.
Wednesday, a police spokesman said here, passed off peacefully amid fears that separatist leaders may stoke trouble.
They had called for a protest march to observe “Martyrs’ Day” in remembrance of Kashmiris killed in police firing on protesters against the Dogra rule on July 13, 1931.
Top separatists Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, in house detention for five days, defied the restrictions and tried to walk towards the martyrs’ graveyard in curfew-bound old Srinagar. Police detained them briefly.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, however, visited the graveyard under a heavy security cover with her senior cabinet colleagues.
She paid tributes to the 1931 martyrs and made a fresh appeal for calm in the valley where at least 35 civilians and a policeman have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters since the killing of the militant commander, Burhan Wani. More than 1,500 people have been injured.
“I appeal to everybody to restore calm and peace so that further loss of lives is avoided,” the Chief Minister said.
Mehbooba Mufti said “the loss of precious lives” in firing by security forces was “regretted but nothing can bring them back.
“While I am deeply grieved, my grief cannot match that of the families who have lost their near and dear ones,” she said. Her Peoples Democratic Party has its political base in the worst-hit south Kashmir.
The region has witnessed 33 of the 36 deaths. One person each was killed in Srinagar and north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.