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Army steps in to control situation in Kashmir

The army today extended its assistance to the state government to clam situation, which was spiraling out of control after killings of 15 persons in protesters-security forces' clashes since June 11.

india Updated: Jul 07, 2010 23:19 IST
Peerzada Ashiq
Peerzada Ashiq
Hindustan Times

The army on Wednesday extended its assistance to the state government to clam situation, which was spiraling out of control after killings of 15 persons in protesters-security forces' clashes since June 11.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's government had formally sought support from the Centre to use the army as "deterrent" and to "assist in imposing curfew and maintaining basic law and order".

Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, confirmed that the state government had formally asked for army support "in restoring order in Srinagar."

It was after more than 15 years that the army columns were patrolling both uptown and downtown Srinagar. Flag marches were also held in several other districts like Budgam and south Kashmir's Anantnag districts.

The army started pouring onto the streets from Srinagar's Badamibagh cantonment area early in the morning. It staged a flag march up to the Srinagar airport and then to the interiors of Srinagar, including trouble areas like Lal Chowk, Dal Gate, old Srinagar and Batamallo, where three people died on Tuesday in security forces' firing.

The curfew was strictly imposed in several districts of Kashmir, including its capital Srinagar. No medical shops were allowed to open and milk vans, vegetable vendors, private vehicles of doctors and municipal vehicles were not allowed to ply. Only tourists and Amarnath pilgrims traveling to or out of Kashmir were allowed to ply on roads after thorough checking.

Locals and police officers told the Hindustan Times that there were protest marches in central Kashmir's Budgam district, 20 km north-south of Srinagar.

There were similar reports of sit-in protests from Baramulla, 70 km north of Srinagar and Sopore, 55 km north of Srinagar. Mild force was used in Sopore to disperse protesting people and community kitchens were also removed.

Separatists have called people to organize 48-hour sit-in in localities across the valley "against the civilian killings". There were chants of protest in several mosques in Srinagar since the morning. Demonstrations were also held at Maisuma and Tengpora areas of Srinagar city before the army patrolled the streets.

The state administration has started a major crackdown against protesters to stall swelling demonstrations. Senior lawyer Mian Qayoom, who heads the High Court Bar Association, was arrested on Tuesday. The association had asked people in rural areas to help protesters by providing them essential food items such as milk and vegetables.

More than 12 separatist leaders such as Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik continue to be behind the bars in the state.

Terming the use of army as "unfortunate", moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said: "Unfortunately, the army has always been India's first and last resort in handling Kashmir."

In the statement circulated on the web from his residence, the Mirwaiz said the army's ever increasing presence in the state, whether in the barracks or on the streets for the past 62 years, has been with the intention of consolidating its control over the territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

"Also intimidating and instilling fear in the people on the other," he said.

The Mirwaiz said "the baton of the freedom struggle has now been passed on to the next generation who by sacrificing their precious lives have reinforced the universally accepted fact that it might be possible to annihilate the body by killing it but no power on earth can subjugate the yearnings of a nation for freedom into submission."

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party described the deployment of army "as a move fraught with danger".

"Instead of trying to address the cause of anger and taking action against perpetrators, the state government only attempted at damage control to restrict its fall out on the "image" of the government without bothering for the precious young lives," said the PDP spokeman.

Since June 11, when a boy Tufail Ahmad Matoo died in tear-gas shelling by the police, Kashmir valley is reeling under consistent curfews and security restrictions. Since then 15 people have died in security forces' action.

First Published: Jul 07, 2010 23:15 IST