Shutdown, protests in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam as Rajnath Singh reviews poll preparations

Amid mounting anger over civilian deaths in Sunday’s Kulgam blast, a shutdown was observed and attempts made to hold protest rallies in Kashmir as Union home minister Rajnath Singh arrived on Tuesday to review the security situation.

Protests were held by traders, mainstream politicians and separatist leaders in Srinagar despite the authorities imposing restrictions and diverting traffic to prevent a rally in Lal Chowk, the city centre. Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) had asked people to converge at Lal Chowk to hold a sit-in against the “killings in Kulgam and unabated state violence against people of Kashmir”.

Seven civilians were killed in south Kashmir’s Kulgam on Sunday in an explosion at the site of a gun battle between militants and security forces immediately after the encounter had ended with the death of three Jaish-e-Mohammed militants. The deaths triggered anger across the Valley and prompted a shutdown on Monday on a call by the JRL.

Despite restrictions by authorities in Srinagar, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik separately attempted to take out protest rallies towards Lal Chowk. Mirwaiz was detained by police as he tried to defy his house detention at Nigeen to march towards Lal Chowk. Yasin Malik was detained near the Clock Tower after he managed to reach Lal Chowk in the morning along with a handful of supporters.

“JRL has decided that if these killings and human rights violations don’t stop, we will have to tell people to remain ready for a massive agitation… ” Malik said before his detention. Syed Ali Geelani was not allowed to move out of his residence in Hyderpora where he has been under house detention. Leaders of the mainstream National Conference also took out a protest rally in Srinagar, led by party general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar.

“We are protesting against the bloodshed in Kashmir. We are protesting on the arrival of the home minister and will convey to him that the hardline policy of the government of India is resented by people here…” Sagar said.

Singh arrived on a day-long visit and reviewed the security situation ahead of the upcoming panchayat polls. He also met leaders of various political parties, including the NC , Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party. While there was no call for a shutdown on Tuesday, normal life was disrupted in Srinagar and many parts of south Kashmir due to a spontaneous strike.

Shops and businesses were closed and traffic movement was disrupted. Authorities closed schools and colleges in Srinagar other parts of the Valley while Kashmir University postponed examinations scheduled for the day. The movement of traffic was restricted from Regal Chowk to Amira Kadal Bridge Road, the route separatists were expected to take for their protest rally.A police official said commercial vehicles travelling to Srinagar from south Kashmir were not allowed through Sonwar but asked to take an alternate route.

First Published: Oct 23, 2018 23:56 IST

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