Srinagar: Life came to a complete halt across the length and breadth of the Kashmir valley on Wednesday when people paid heed to the Joint Resistance Leadership’s (JRL) call to observe August 15 a “black day and to observe a complete strike.”
The authorities had imposed tight curbs in majority of downtown areas as top separatist leadership was either detained or confined to their homes. Mobile phone and internet services were snapped across Kashmir on all networks as a “precautionary measure.” It was later restored at 12 in the afternoon.
The police detained JKLF chief Muhammad Yasin Malik from his Maisuma residence while Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani, Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, senior Hurriyat (M) member and Peoples Political Party (PPP) chief Engineer Hilal Ahmed War, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chief Muhammad Ashraf Sherai and many others were placed under house detention.
A witness said that all the commercial establishments including shops remained shut for the day as city centre Lal Chowk wore a deserted Look. He said that only forces’ vehicles could be spotted plying on the roads.
“Since early morning, dozens of forces and VIP vehicles could be seen plying on Lal Chowk and its adjoining roads to reach the SK Stadium Sonwar to attend the official function of I-day,” the witness said. The SK stadium in Srinagar hosted first I-day function amid extraordinary security measures since the traditional venue of celebrations, Bakshi Stadium, is undergoing renovation.
In downtown, the witness said that majority of areas remained under a tight curfew that include Mahraj Gunj, Raninawari, Nowhatta, Safa Kadal and Khanyar. At many places in downtown, barbed wires were placed on roads to ensure no big gathering or any protest march.
“Forces including paramilitary troopers and policemen were wearing riot gears to foil the possible protests,” said another witness. In Kashmir, tempers are already high owing to the fact that series of pleas filed before the Supreme Court to challenge the validity of Article 35 A that guarantees special citizenship rights to people of J&K by barring outsiders from buying land in the State. The case that was earlier listed on August 6 will be now heard by the apex court on August 27.
Reports from various district headquarters said that the strike call given by JRL evoked total response.
A JKLF spokesman in a statement issued here said that the police contingent reached the Maisuma residence of the JKLF chairman Malik and lodged him in the police station, Kothibagh. Police also detained the JKLF vice chairman Showkat Bakshi and Zonal organiser Bashir Kashmiri and lodged them in Kothibagh police station. “Earlier, police had detained JKLF’s district president for Ganderbal Bashir Ahmed Rather and many other activists and lodged them in police stations in the district,” the Front spokesman said. The police also placed Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, senior Hurriyat (G) leaders Ghulam Nabi Sumji, Muhammad Ashraf Laya, resistance leaders Zafar Akbar Bhat, Javaid Ahmed Mir, and many others were also placed under house arrest.
Police had made elaborate arrangements to ensure incident free August 15 functions across the Valley. “The day passed off peacefully,” said inspector general of police (IGP), Kashmir zone, Swayam Prakash Pani.