Kashmir Protests Against Tosa Maidan Lease

12 April 2014
Greater Kashmir
Shabir Ibn Yusuf

Srinagar: Police imposed curfew in several parts of Srinagar city on Saturday while rest of Kashmir witnessed shutdown and clashes against the proposed extension of lease to Army over Tosa Maidan meadow in Central Kashmir. The shutdown was called by Hurriyat Conference (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Notified as a firing range in 1964, Tosa Maidan meadow in Central Kashmir's Budgam district was re-notified by the then Peoples Democratic Party-Congress government in 2004 for use of Army drills. With the notification expiring on April 18, 2014, the Army has asked the State government to re-notify the 11200 hectares land as a firing range till 2034. But the demand has evoked widespread criticism from locals and civil society who have been badly affected by the artillery exercises. Hundreds of police and paramilitary personnel were deployed in old Srinagar to enforce the curfew today. The residents said that joint contingents arrived in their localities early Saturday morning and did not allow them to come out of their homes. The forces closed roads with barbed wire at Braripora, Nawa Kadal, Khanyar and Nallahmar and vehicles were not allowed to ply on these routes. The movement of pedestrians in these areas was also restricted. The forces blocked the roads with concertina wire and erected barricades. Armored vehicles were kept on stand-by on road junctions. 'We were not allowed to come out for the whole day,' Showkat Ahmad, a resident of Rajouri Kadal, told Greater Kashmir. He added that in the morning they couldn't buy even essential commodities due to the restrictions. In other parts of Srinagar, large presence of police and CRPF personnel prevented the movement of people and public transport remained off the roads. However, thin private transport plied in civil lines. Business establishments, schools, banks and other government offices witnessed thin attendance due to the shutdown. In other parts of Kashmir, normal life was paralyzed due to the strike. All shops and business establishments in north, south and central Kashmir were closed. The traffic was off the roads. Khag area of central Kashmir's Budgam district witnessed restrictions. The road to Tosa Maidan passes through the area. Clashes erupted between people and police in main Bandipora town, Khanpora Baramulla and Kulgam area of south Kashmir. However no one was injured in the clashes. Reports said that youth in these areas took to streets and pelted stones on the forces. The security forces used force to disperse them. Reports from south Kashmir said that shops and business establishments remained closed in all major towns including Islamabad, Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian, Tral, Awantipora, Pampore and Bijbehara. Reports of protests and clashes were received from Bugam village of Kulgam district. 'Youth came out on streets and pelted stones on policemen who retaliated by resorting to baton charge,' reports said. The village has been witnessing clashes for the past few days as people attacked the cavalcades of various political parties during election campaign. 'We won't allow any political party whether it is NC, PDP, Congress, AIP, AAP or any other party to carry any election campaign in the village. We won't vote, come what may,' the protesters have been maintaining. MIRWAIZ, OTHER LEADERS PUT UNDER HOUSE ARREST: Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was put under house arrest at his Nigeen residence since Friday evening. Media Advisor to Mirwaiz, Advocate Shahid-u-Islam told Greater Kashmir that contingents of police arrived at his residence and informed him that he has been put under house arrest. Shahid was also put under house arrest. Besides Mirwaiz, other senior Hurriyat leaders, Agha Syed Hassan Al-Moosvi Al-Safvi and Syed Saleem Geelani were also put under house arrest. Hurriyat (M) leader Mukhtar Ahmad Waza was detained in Sherbagh Anantnag police station while Hilal Ahmad War was picked up from his Maisuma residence and detained in Kral Khud police station. A spokesman of Hurriyat (M) has condemned, what he said, the unlawful action of the government. He said that the restrictions are not acceptable on peaceful political activities of Hurriyat leaders and separatist leadership. Hurriyat leader Zaffar Akbar Bhat carried out a protest march against extension of lease on Tosa Maidan and addressed a gathering at Khan Sahib Budgam. He demanded immediate end to lease agreement. MIRAWAIZ CONGRATULATES PEOPLE: Congratulating the people on making the strike call a success, Mirwaiz Saturday said the shutdown has proved that Kashmiris are against military consolidation. Criticizing the government for imposing restrictions in old Srinagar, he said that these tricks would not dampen the spirit of the people. A Hurriyat spokesman added, 'India is pursuing the policy of strengthening its illegal occupation but the people of the State would not allow that.' The spokesman further said that the extension to Tosa Maidan lease would make the lives of thousands of people miserable. He said this extension would consolidate the military consolidation that would have serious repercussions on the local population and cause serious human problems.