Kashmir: Mobile network blocked again amid fears of Friday clashes

  • Abhishek Saha, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Aug 12, 2016 12:08 IST
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard during curfew in downtown area of Srinagar. (Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

Private mobile networks were suspended late on Thursday night in Kashmir amid fears of clashes between civilians and security forces on Friday even as curfew and restrictions continued across the valley for the 35th straight day.

The network was snapped sometime after 11pm on Thursday and only state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited’s (BSNL) post-paid numbers are functioning fully.

Non-BSNL phone services were blocked across Kashmir for 12 days from July 14 to July 26. Mobile internet services, which were clamped across networks throughout Kashmir hours after the death of Hizbul militant Burhan Wani on July 8, continues to remain so.

The suspension of mobile services came as authorities prepared for a volatile Friday with apprehensions of intense clashes. Last week, three people were killed in firing by security forces after Friday prayer protests erupted.

A crucial all-party meeting to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take place on Friday to discuss steps to restore normalcy in violence-hit Kashmir. However, it will not be represented by prominent mainstream parties, including the state’s principal opposition party National Conference.

The all-party meeting was announced by Union home minister Rajnath Singh in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday during an impassioned discussion on the volatile situation in Kashmir, aggravated by a high number of civilian injuries caused by pellet guns used by security forces.

The state police issued an “appeal” Thursday evening, urging parents to not allow their children to take part in protests and religious leaders to not deliver “provocative speeches”.

“It has been observed for last few Fridays that after the culmination of Friday prayers miscreants force the people to assemble on the Chowks and roads; thus obstructing the normal traffic. Many a times these gatherings are manipulated to pelt stones upon the police/security force deployments,” the statement said.

“In order to avoid such situations, the parents are requested not to allow their children to take part in such activities. Youth is advised not to fell prey to such machinations. The Imams and Khateebs are also requested not to deliver provocative speeches so that the situation is not exploited by vested interests.”

Local media reports said that Srinagar’s hospitals have prepared for the day by keeping extra units of doctors in case the situation deteriorates and injuries or casualties occur in large numbers.

On Thursday, top separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, were arrested as they attempted to lead a march towards the martyrs’ graveyard at Eidgah in Srinagar to pay tributes to the slain Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz and those killed during the civil unrests in 2008 and 2010.

However, according to the Hurriyat’s call for a relaxation of shutdown after 6pm on Thursday, most shops and eateries across Srinagar had opened up.

According to the separatists’ protest programme, people have been asked to hold protests in their localities after prayers on Friday. The fresh calendar issued on Thursday extended the shutdown till August 18 and called for a “Referendum March” in Lal Chowk on August 13 and 14.

On August 14, Pakistan’s independence day, there is a call for special prayers for the “stability of Pakistan” and on August 15, India’s independence day, there is a call for “civil curfew and black day”.

“Parents are directed not to send their wards for participation in these [I-Day] celebrations. Raise black flags on your houses, shops, market centres and local chowks, wear black dresses or black bands on this day,” the programme said about August 15.

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