Authorities suspended mobile internet services and imposed restrictions in parts of Kashmir on Thursday to prevent escalation of protests triggered after security forces fired at a group protesting the alleged molestation of a school girl by an Indian Army soldier in Kupwara’s Handwara on Tuesday.
Kashmir remained shut for the third consecutive day following the deaths of four people in clashes between the stone-pelting mobs and security forces in Handwara town, 85km from Srinagar, since Tuesday.
The army has released a video of the girl allegedly denying the molestation charge.
Police have imposed restrictions in downtown areas of capital Srinagar and parts of Kupwara district. A police official said that the restrictions have been imposed in Rainawari, Nowhatta, MR Gunj, Khanyar, Safakadal and Maisuma areas of Srinagar as well as in Handwara and Langate areas of Kupwara.
“We don’t want to take any chances and have imposed restrictions to prevent deterioration of law and order,” the official said.
Traffic movement in the areas, where restrictions have not been imposed, was very thin. All the educational institutes in the affected areas are shut.
Mobile internet services have also been blocked in north Kashmir, Srinagar and south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
A police official said the decision to suspend internet services was a “precautionary measure to maintain peace and prevent spread of rumours”.
While service providers remained tight-lipped on the suspension of services, officials said it was a temporary measure that would be withdrawn as soon as the situation returns to normal.
Sources in Delhi told HT that the central government had nothing to do with the decision to suspend the mobile internet services and it was probably done on the instructions of state police.
Two men, in their early twenties, were killed in the firing on Tuesday while a 50-year-old woman, who was wounded in the incident, succumbed to her injuries on Wednesday. Another man was killed during protests against the deaths in the district when he was hit by a teargas shell.
All shops and business establishments were also closed in response to the shutdown call by the separatist leaders including Hurriyat’s Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front’s chairperson Yasin Malik.
Geelani termed the killing of innocents as “the worst kind of state terrorism”. He held chief minister Mehbooba Mufti responsible for “such heinous crime” and said people of Kashmir have seen many such committees and probes that have turned out to be “mere eyewash”.
The veteran leader has also asked people to protest against the killings on Friday as well.
The violence is a big test for newly sworn-in chief minister, who met defence minister Manohar Parrikar to seek a time-bound probe into the civilian deaths and said the shootings will have a “negative impact” on peace efforts.
The violence comes barely a week after a nationalism row at NIT Srinagar, where non-Kashmiri students clashed with local pupils.
Army and the state government have ordered probes into the Kupwara incidents which have been rejected by separatists.