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Night curfew back, Mirwaiz sets terms

india Updated: Sep 13, 2010 00:56 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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Fresh violence swept troubled Kashmir and its capital despite one of the tightest curfews of the current unrest, as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah stayed in Delhi, insisting he was "putting pressure" on the Centre for a political package ahead of a cabinet meeting on Monday.

Late on Sunday, police vans announced indefinite curfew across many towns and the first night curfew in Srinagar since the militancy of the 1990s. The government disabled Internet data cards, security checkpoints refused to honour curfew passes, and there was no loosening of curfew after 7 pm, as is usually the case.

"We appeal to you not to leave your houses, or you could be shot at," said late-night announc-ements in downtown Srinagar.

On the 92nd day of the curre-nt disturbances, the toll climbed to 70 with the death of a stone thrower who took a bullet six days ago. Several others were injured in police firing.

Abdullah said Sunday's violence was confined to Srinagar, but the police reported unrest in several towns. Education Minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed's house came under att-ack from protestors in Anantnag, an hour south of Srinagar.

Even as the police registered first information reports (FIRs) against Kashmir's chief priest, the moderate separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and emerging hardliner Masrat Alam, of instigating Eid violence, the Mirwaiz told Hindustan Times there could be hopes for peace if the cabinet fulfilled these conditions:

Announcing the repeal of, not amendments to, the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

Removing the "more dangerous" Public Safety Act, under which many stone-throwers are held in detention without trial for two years.

"Gradual demilitarization" of the Valley's major cities, by moving paramilitary camps of the CRPF and BSF. It would make a "huge difference", said the Mirwaiz.

Criticised for being in Delhi when Kashmir was burning, Abdullah said he was not on a private visit but as "a prelude" to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

"Since I am in Delhi, it is obvious I will stay with my family," he told HT.

On Saturday, Abdullah appeared on news channels to say the Mirwaiz had betrayed his trust by leading crowds to Lal Chowk after Eid prayers. The Mirwaiz accused Abdullah of lying.

"Three FIRs have been registered against Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. At Lal Chowk area, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (and others) by their speeches instigated the public to resort to arson and damage public property," said a police spokesman.

Charges and counter-charges continued over Saturday's arson. Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani criticised the FIRs against the Mirwaiz and Alam. He alleged the involvement of Ikhwanis (pro-government gunmen).

The offices of a Chief Engineer, a security barrack at the Hazratbal shrine (housing a hair of the prophet), and the Crime Branch headquarters were set on fire.

The Mirwaiz said the FIR against him were "oppressive tactics" were in use for the past 20 years and denied his men were involved in the arson.

"As per eyewitnesses, the fire started from the top of the building mysteriously and no protester was seen around it," said the Mirwaiz. "How a building that is fenced by a 20-ft-high brick wall and razor wire would start burning from the top raises serious doubts, and that need to be impartially investigated, so that the conspiracy behind the arson is known."