New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday said the imposition of curfew on Eid-ul Adha on Tuesday was a "very unfortunate" decision which it was "compelled" to take to save the lives since the separatists had given a call for a march to the United Nations office.
Senior minister and government spokesman Naeem Akhtar said the step had to be taken to avoid a repeat of the year 2010 when protesters, after Eid prayers, had left a "trail of destruction" while participating in a march led by Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
"It is very unfortunate that we had to impose a curfew. But it was in response to a particular situation created by those who had given a call for a march to the UN office," he told PTI over the phone, explaining the controversial decision.
"We were compelled to impose curfew. It doesn't do any good to the image of any government to take such a step but it is the responsibility of the government to ensure law and order," he added.
The separatists, who have been spearheading the agitation since July 9 in the wake of killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, had given a call for a march to the UN office here yesterday to coincide with Eid-ul Adha. The government was determined to scuttle it.
"It was an act of compulsion in response to an ill-advised call for march to the UN office. It should have been avoided," said Akhtar, who holds the Education portfolio.
Underlining that it was a compelling situation, he noted that only two months back, Kashmir had celebrated Eid-ul Fitr (on July 7) in a splendid manner in peace. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, despite being a woman, went to Hazratbal shrine to offer 'namaz' on that day, he said.
"But now, there is a particular situation. We feel we have saved lives by imposing curfew as it is our primary responsibility, as the government, to save lives," he said.
"We have the example of 2010 when thousands of people participated in a march led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the protesters left a trail of destruction after Eid prayers," Akhtar said.
Taking on the separatists, Akhtar said their agitation was giving a bad name to ordinary Kashmiris and hurting the state, particularly financially and academically.
"The image of ordinary Kashmiris is maligned by the stretching of the agitation. It gives bad name to even those who believe in genuine resolution of the issue peacefully. They are branded in negative light," the minister said.
"The leadership, which is leading the agitation, needs to have a re-look at its strategy, its slogans and political roadmap... They should introspect and be ready for dialogue without any pre-conditions," he added.
The agitation, Akhtar said, will have "long-term impact" on economy and business, and Kashmir Valley as a whole. "We have already lost one academic session. We are destroying whatever good we had created," he said.