Curfew back in Srinagar; Omar puts army on standby

Curfew was reimposed in Maisuma locality in J&K's Srinagar and Anantnag and Pulwama towns today after stone-pelting mobs clashed with security forces, authorities said. Meanwhile, CM Omar Abdullah said he hoped to pull out the armed forces from "standby duties" next week.Govt sounds alert for Amarnath Yatra | What's happening in Kashmir | See pics | Listen to podcast

india Updated: Jul 10, 2010 17:56 IST

Jammu and Kashmir Government will consider the option of withdrawing deployment of the army from the valley after the Martyrs' Day on July 13 and the situation as of now was well under control, state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on Saturday.

"Even now the army has not been brought into the city. It is only in the periphery, that too it was deployed two days ago," he said in an interview.

Conceding that it was the most difficult decision for him to seek the assistance of Army from the Centre, the 40-year-old Chief Minister, the youngest in the country to occupy the post, said that it was one decision that he would not like to repeat in his term in the office.

Asked when his government would consider withdrawing the Army, which was called out on Tuesday night after escalation in violence in the valley, Abdullah said that it would be done when the government has that level of confidence.

"The situation is being monitored on a daily basis. We will consider that option after July 13 and take a decision," he said in a reference to the observance of Martyrs' Day which is commemorated in memory of those who died fighting the Dogra rule.

Abdullah ruled out quitting the post and also dismissed speculation that his father and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah would step into his shoes.

"A host of people would like me to quit but I am not contemplating such a decision," he said when asked if he had at any time thought of stepping down.

Asked about his father's arrival in the city in the midst of the current situation and reports that he would like to take over as chief minister, Abdullah said there was criticism when his father was not in Kashmir.

"And now that he is coming for his mother's death anniversary tomorrow, my detractors are speculating."

He declined to comment on suggestions that he and his father should swap places and also on reports questioning whether he enjoyed the support of his party.

Abdullah was at pains to point out that the army was deployed only near the airport on the first day and the second day and was no longer deployed anywhere.

The government has not formally cancelled the request for army's assistance but the option is still there.

"While we sought the help, we are firm that the army will not be in direct confrontation with protesters and therefore we asked them to conduct a flag march. That was the need of the hour," he said.

Asking political parties to stop playing "divisive" role, the Chief Minister said the decision of seeking army's help was taken after thorough consultations with coalition partners, cabinet ministers and authorities in a bid to prevent any further loss of innocent lives.

"I have always welcomed healthy criticism but I am averse to criticism which stinks of divisive politics. I do not wish to see trouble on streets but the situation on Tuesday was tense," he said replying to questions about criticism on the decision to call in the army.

"I have police force and paramilitary personnel who are over stretched because of the ongoing Amarnath Yatra. I cannot withdraw from my Counter Insurgency Grid because that will give chance to terrorists to enter the mainland in the Valley.

"Therefore, my government, after consulting with state and central leaders, decided to seek army's help for assisting in maintenance of law and order situation."

He went on to say "only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches".

The Chief Minister said that he had consulted Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony about the situation and the deployment of the army.

Asked about the conversation intercepts of a few Hurriyat leaders indicating that they were engineering killings of innocents, the Chief Minister declined to comment. "At present I need peace for the state. These issues can be worked out later."

On the opposition PDP accusing his government of being inefficient in handling the situation, Abdullah said, "Well the facts and figures speak otherwise.

"There were disturbances and civilian causalities were more. The PDP rule came when New Delhi and Islamabad were getting close. Roads were opened, talks were held with Pakistan and Hurriyat. Guess (the then chief minister Mufti Sayeed) he had no complaints but still the causalities happened."

According to National Crime Records Buearu of the Union Home Ministry, in 2003, the year the People's Democratic Party-Congress alliance government took office, six people were killed in 47 incidents involving the use of force by police.

Thirteen civilians were killed in 2004 when the then Chief Minister Sayeed completed his first year in office. Besides this, police is recorded to have opened fire on 123 occasions.

In 2005, fatalities in police firing rose sharply to 50 and the state government withdrew BSF committed to counter-insurgency operations in Srinagar and replaced them with the CRPF in an effort to contain killings of civilians.

In 2006, the year Ghulam Nabi Azad took over as chief minister, Srinagar saw a series of protests against a prostitution racket in which politicians were implicated. But in 2007, eight civilians were killed in 47 instances of police firing.

Civilian deaths rose sharply in 2008 — during the Amarnath agitation, and the state government reported 43 deaths and 317 injuries in 379 incidents involving use of force by police.

Curfew reimposed

Curfew was reimposed in Maisuma locality Srinagar and Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag and Pulwama towns on Saturday after stone-pelting mobs clashed with security forces, authorities said.

"Miscreants resorted to stone pelting in Maisuma and in Anantnag and Pulwama during curfew relaxation. Curfew was reimposed at these places," a senior police officer said.

Markets remained closed and public buses did not ply in most parts of Srinagar city. However, people poured out of their homes to buy essential items and private transport plied on the roads.

Curfew was relaxed Friday in the Kashmir Valley for an indefinite period to facilitate the celebration of the holy Muslim festival of Shab-e-Meraj (ascension of Prophet to heaven).

However, curfew was not lifted inSopore and Kakpora towns for the fourth day on Saturday.

First Published: Jul 10, 2010 13:43 IST