Curfew In Kashmir Valley For 2nd Day, No Separatist Rally Held

6 October 2008
The Times of India

Srinagar: Barring some minor incidents, curfew remained enforced in the Kashmir Valley for the second day on Monday with police and paramilitary forces deployed in large numbers to thwart any attempt by separatist groups to hold a protest rally in Lal Chowk area here. The day passed off peacefully, which also saw a rare move by people of three areas in south Kashmir approaching the district administration and asking for removal of curfew against a written assurance provided by them. Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda said that there was no report of any untoward incident from any part of the Valley where curfew had been imposed. 'We are constantly monitoring the situation and a necessary decision on easing the restriction will be taken at an appropriate time,' he said. However, official sources said a crowd had gathered in Old Baramulla late last night and this morning and shouted slogans against the state administration. Today, the crowd thrashed one person identified as Awaiz Lone for carrying a pistol during a procession and handed him over to police. Later, he turned out to be an army informer and the pistol had been issued to him for his self-protection. Police will take necessary legal action, a senior official said. Police and paramilitary forces had laid a siege around Lal Chowk, the venue for Monday's rally by the Coordination Committee, an amalgam of separatist groups. A large posse of gun-toting security personnel took up position in and around the area. All entry and exit points in Srinagar city were sealed. Jammu and Kashmir Police's new anti-riot vehicles were positioned at strategic locations, specially those which had witnessed violence earlier. The Lal Chowk Chalo call was given by Coordination Committee to press for its demands which include opening of LoC roads for trade, release of all detainees and revocation of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). A police spokesman said essential services like hospitals, power, PHE and other emergency services were being made available round the clock. Some of the local newspapers, including the highest circulated English daily 'Greater Kashmir', failed to hit the stands as publishers decided not to print them accusing the government of not providing enough curfew passes to their staff, a charge denied by the administration. 'Due to indefinite curfew imposed by the authorities in Srinagar and elsewhere in Kashmir and the government's failure to provide adequate number of curfew passes to our staff, distributors and hawkers, the print edition of Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Uzma will not hit the stands on Monday,' the Greater Kashmir said in a statement. However, a government spokesman said enough passes had been provided to all newspapers and in some cases vehicles passes have also issued to ferry their staff members. Ahead of Monday's march, a number of separatist leaders including JKLF's Yaseen Malik were put under preventive custody. Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was shifted to a hospital after he complained of abdominal pain. Among those placed under house arrest were chairman of Hurriyat's moderate faction Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Jamiat-e-Ahl- e-Hadith chief Maulana Showkat besides senior separatist leaders Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Lone and Sajjad Lone. Separatist leader Javed Ahmed Mir was also taken into preventive custody by the authorities on Monday. Meanwhile, the Hurriyat Conference criticised the state authorities' decision to impose an indefinite curfew to prevent the Lal Chowk march, saying it was an undemocratic process. 'Imposing curfew is not a democratic process. People's voice should not only be heard but also acted upon...It will be in the benefit of all the concerned,' former Hurriyat chairman and senior separatist leader Abdul Gani Bhat said. He added that the separatist leaders were willing to adopt an alternative method for conveying the wishes and aspirations of the people to the Centre if New Delhi did not like the present mode of agitation. 'If they (Centre) do not like this process of airing grievances, they should suggest what other alternative they would prefer and we will be doing that,' Bhat said referring to dialogues between the separatists and the government which has been stalled since 2006. On the other hand, the administration in south Kashmir came in for a pleasant surprise when people of three areas - tourist-spot Pahalgam, Kokernag and Sri Gafwara - approached them and gave an undertaking to authorities of not indulging in any protest marches or rallies. The administration lost no time in lifting the curfew as a mark of reciprocation, official sources said.