Blast, Protest Precedes PM's Kashmir Visit
26 August 2003
The Times of India
Srinagar: A massive blast in an abandoned house rocked Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar on Wednesday as authorities were busy preparing for the arrival of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee later in the day. Though the house was extensively damaged in the blast, there was no loss of life. Vajpayee is scheduled to arrive here in the afternoon to inaugurate the 8th Inter-State Council meet being held outside New Delhi for the first time. Police officials here said the massive explosion occurred inside the former home of a Kashmiri Pandit family, which had reportedly migrated from the valley in the mid 1990s, in the Kaka Sarai residential area here. The sound of the explosion was heard as far as the city centre Lal Chowk, about three km from the spot. A senior police officer here blamed separatist guerrillas for the blast. He said it was 'an act of frustration on the part of the militants as they wanted to create some little news on the arrival of the country's prime minister today'. In a related development, a group of separatist leaders led by the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) vice-chairman, Javed Mir, staged a demonstration in the city on Wednesday. However, police immediately stopped the marchers and Mir, along with Shahidul Islam of the Awami Action Committee, was taken into custody. The JKLF and the Awami Action Committee are the constituents of the separatist political conglomerate, the All Party Hurriyat Conference, which has called for a general shutdown to protest the prime minister's arrival in Kashmir. Authorities have imposed tight security regulations in the city for the two-day meet Wednesday and Thursday. All roads leading to the Sher-e-Kashmir Convention Complex (SKICC) have been sealed off. No vehicular or pedestrian movement is being allowed on the posh Boulevard Road outside the SKICC, except to those given special permission by the local security. Tourists and local visitors to the famous Mughal Gardens of Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Harwan have been barred for the two days that the Inter-State Council is in session here. Moreover, the daily army convoys to the Ladakh region, which use the Boulevard Road on their way to the Zojila Pass, have been put on the hold for the two days in order to avoid inconvenience to the visitors.