February 2020 News

In A First, No Shutdown In Kashmir On U.S. President's India Visit

24 February 2020
The Hindu
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: In a first, Kashmir witnessed no separatist Hurriyat backed shutdown during the visit of a United States President. The entire local leaders, both separatists and the regional parties, completely refrained from issuing any statements during President Donald Trump's two-day visit that began on Monday, unlike the trend witnessed in the past two decades. There was a heightened security across the Valley on Monday, as Mr. Trump landed. An official said a general red alert was sounded in the Valley. Scores of mobile bunkers were set up on the highways and security forces stepped up operations against active militants and their sleeper cells. 'Operations were on against militants since January but they were paced up a bit to dent any striking capability of any armed group to create an event during the U.S. President's visit', a senior police officer said. The anxiety among the security apparatus was due to the past incidents, especially the killing of 36 Sikhs in south Kashmir's Chattisinghpora by unknown gunmen on the eve of then U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to India, first in 22 years then, in March 2000. Separatists had also organised a shutdown coinciding with Mr. Clinton's visit. In November 2010, all the factions of the Hurriyat, headed by Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, called for a shutdown when then US President Barack Obama visited India, in a bid to highlight the Kashmir issue. Unlike the past, the Valley had a normal day on Monday. Over 10 lakh students returned to schools in uniforms first time in seven months. There was no shutdown call. No Hurriyat factions or separatists issued statements on the occasion. Even the mainstream political parties, like the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party, decided to refrain from issuing any statement. Both parties last year welcomed Mr. Trump's offer to mediate in the Kashmir issue. Though scores of shopkeepers were glued to the television sets at the commercial hub Lal Chowk to keep a tab on the remarks made by Mr. Trump, but most of them refused to comment on their expectations from the visit. 'Traditionally, people in the Valley reacted to the U.S. President's remarks on the Kashmir issue or absence of it. Post August 5 [When the Centre revoked J&K's special status], silence is a new medium to convey a political message', said a shopkeeper at Polo View, as he raised the volume of the television set with Mr. Trump's speech on.