Curfew in more areas, Army again stages flag march8 July 2010
The Daily Excelsior
SRINAGAR: Curfew continued to remain in force for the third day in almost all parts of the Kashmir valley as Army staged a flag march in the city warning people not to violate the prohibitory orders. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today reviewed the situation with senior officials of the bureaucracy and police and discussed the possibility of curfew relaxation tomorrow because of Friday prayers and for Shab-e-Mehraj, a religious function, on Saturday. It was decided that an on-the-spot assessment would be made tomorrow depending upon the law and order situation in the area, official sources said, adding they also discussed whether to continue flag marches by the Army or not. Additional forces of eight companies (800 personnel) sought by the State also arrived this evening and were immediately deployed in trouble areas of the city. In a related development, Centre has sent out a tough message that 'anti-nationals and vested interests' creating unrest in the Valley would be dealt with sternly. Omar has also convened an all-party meeting in Srinagar on Monday to discuss present situation. During the day, Ganderbal, in the outskirts of the city, witnessed a protest of a different nature when students gathered on road complaining against delay in setting up a Central University in that district. The protesters dispersed after a mild-lathi charge. In Chadoora, in Budgam district, people attempted to come on the roads but had to beat a hasty retreat when security forces resorted to cane-charging. Sopore town and old parts of Baramulla were placed under curfew as a precautionary measure, official sources said. Curfew was also being enforced strictly in Srinagar, where four persons were killed in alleged firing by security forces on Tuesday. In New Delhi, Home Minister P Chidambaram hoped Army would not be required for too long in the Valley and appealed to the people there to observe restrictions. 'Army was deployed at the request of Government of Jammu and Kashmir. I am not at liberty to disclose where it has been deployed. But I can assure that most of the places affected are still being patrolled and curfew enforced by J&K Police and paramilitary forces,' he told reporters. In Srinagar, Union Home Secretary G K Pillai chaired a high-level meeting late last night to review the situation in the Valley during which he asked the officials to ensure that no guilty person be allowed to go scot-free and efforts should be made to ensure safety of innocent civilians, sources said. The meeting was attended by Jammu and Kashmir DGP Kuldeep Khoda, Special DG CRPF N K Tripathi, Commander of Army's 15 Corps Lt Gen G S Marwah, Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen A M Verma and senior officials of Central security agencies. Pillai told the officials that anti-national and vested interests were behind the ongoing unrest in the Valley and they need to be dealt with sternly, they said. The Army had yesterday moved 17 columns (about 1,700 personnel) into various parts of the city to assist the civil administration in maintaining law and order. Srinagar, which was bustling with tourists before the trouble started, looked like a ghost city for another day with empty streets and closed shops amid the heavy presence of security forces. Amid suspicion of involvement of hardline separatists in engineering some of the violence in the Valley, the Centre asked security agencies to make concerted efforts to nab those people who were responsible for funding the current unrest, sources said. As some of the Opposition leaders in Kashmir questioned the need to calling the Army, Pillai made it clear that this was to 'serve as a deterrent' adding, 'Army has been kept ready in case it becomes necessary to deploy them.' Giving enough indications that the Army will not be pulled out in a hurry, Chidambaram said they will be in Kashmir 'as long as it is necessary' to deal with the situation there. 'But I sincerely hope that it will not be necessary for too long.' He emphasised that people should not come out of their homes during curfew and pelt stones. 'I appeal to Jammu and Kashmir people to observe curfew and stay indoors. Curfew is in place for a couple of days. I am sure the J&K Government will be able to relax curfew in a couple of days,' he said. 'Parents should ensure that their children remain indoors. It is the responsibility of parents,' the Home Minister said, adding 'It is important that curfew is enforced and observed by everybody.' Pillai asked security agencies to make efforts to nab those people who were responsible for funding the current unrest, sources said. Earlier, Pillai also met Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and reviewed the overall law and order situation. Pillai assured the Chief Minister of complete support of the Centre in maintaining peace in the Valley. In order to chalk out a future strategy about the prevailing situation, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has convened an all party meeting on Monday at 3 p.m here. The Chief Minister will hold consultations with legislators from the coalition partner, Congress and other allies a day ahead of the all party meeting. Army carried out flag marches in several parts of the city as part of its assignment to maintain law and order, which had spiraled out of control on Tuesday following killing of three persons in firing by police and CRPF. The fourth person was killed a day earlier due to head injury sustained during police lathicharge a day earlier. Although the entire media in Kashmir has been unofficially gagged for the last two days, the Army sent vehicles for the journalists to cover the flag marches through the streets of Srinagar city. The journalists working out of Srinagar have not been issued fresh curfew passes as the earlier ones have been cancelled. All the major local dailies have suspended their publication until the restrictions on the movement of the scribes are lifted. Several local journalists and editors' organizations have condemned the approach of the State authorities in imposing curbs on the movement of the local media personnel while facilitating the movement of a team of scribes flown in from New Delhi yesterday. An eerie silence prevailed over summer capital as the severest restriction in the recent history of the State remained in force across the city even as new areas were brought under the restrictions following yesterday's protests. Streets of Srinagar city and elsewhere in the Valley wore a deserted look after additional police and paramilitary forces were deployed in the areas where protests were held yesterday. The law enforcing agencies were posted in numbers at all major intersections in the city and those areas known to be trouble spots. Extra deployment was carried out in vicinity of Gangbugh and Batamaloo areas, where the four killings took place earlier this week. Despite strict implementation of curfew, protests were held in the interiors of Batamaloo and Narkara in Budgam district. However, the protestors were chased away by the security forces using batons. A road accident near G B Panth Children's hospital at Sonawar, in which a middle aged man was injured, led to stone-pelting incident. Forty-five-year-old Ghulam Mohiuddin Chopan, a resident of Khansahib in Budgam district, was hit by a vehicle carrying Amarnath Yatris at Sonawar this evening, resulting in critical injuries to him. He was shifted to SMHS hospital for treatment. Although the scene of incident is located inside the Army's Badamibagh Cantonment area, a crowd of attendants of patients admitted in the Children's hospital started pelting stones on the vehicle. The mob allowed 'safe passage' to the nine yatris and the driver but smashed the window panes of the vehicle. Security forces rushed to the area in order to control the situation but clashes continued till late in the evening. So far, there were no reports about any one getting injured in the clashes. There was no major untoward incident reported from anywhere in the Valley.