May 2006 News

Army Seals Off Capital Of Indian Kashmir For PM's Visit Amid Violence

23 May 2006
Agence France-Presse

Srinagar: Indian troops sealed off vast swathes of Kashmir's summer capital following a spate of violence by Islamic militants in the runup to a visit Wednesday by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the army said. Combat troops backed border guards in Srinagar where residents in several districts found themselves coralled into 'sanitized zones' amid tight security ahead of Singh's visit for two days of peace talks with political leaders. 'There is very tight security in view of the roundtable conference and the prime minister's visit and operations are going on across the (Kashmir) valley,' Indian army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Vijay Batra told AFP. He said Singh would head straight for a meeting of security commanders to review the situation in Kashmir where Muslim militants have vowed to disrupt the two-day talks aimed at restoring peace in the troubled region. Seven people died and 22 were wounded Sunday when rebels opposing peace efforts attacked hundreds of people at a political event in Srinagar. The security restrictions in the city of one million led to frayed tempers as office-goers were forced to travel many extra miles on circuitous routes. 'Why can't the prime minister stay home in New Delhi and hold all his talks there?' asked resident Ghulam Rasool, escorting his daughter to school near Srinagar's heavily-fortified airport zone. 'This is the height of our tourism season and such roundtables will only scare off our guests,' said another resident, after being shooed off a street while a siren- blaring security convoy drove past. Despite extra security, a civilian was killed and 34 wounded, including five Indian tourists, in four separate grenade attacks by Islamic militants in Srinagar on Monday. The scheduled venue for the roundtable peace conference on the banks of Srinagar's Dal Lake was out of bounds to traffic. Soldiers with automatic weapons and shoulder-fired rocket launchers patrolled the waters on powerboats, witnesses said. On Monday, the moderate faction of Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the Hurriyat or Freedom Alliance, turned down an invitation to take part in the roundtable saying it was 'futile'. The Hurriyat, which did attend talks with Singh in New Delhi last month, agreed however to meet the Indian premier on the sidelines of the conference.


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