Fearing widespread violence on Friday, the Jammu and Kashmir government arrested separatist leaders when they were attempting to lead a march towards the martyrs’ graveyard at Eidgah in Srinagar to pay tribute to those killed in the 2008 and 2010 unrest. On Thursday evening, the government suspended mobile services across Kashmir, barring the BSNL postpaid cellphones. Last week, three people were killed in firing by security forces after Friday prayer protests erupted.
But the big test will be on Sunday when groups across the volatile north and south of Kashmir are planning to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day.
In four districts of south Kashmir — the epicentre of the ongoing unrest in the Valley — different groups have erected makeshift wooden stages to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day across rural areas that have recently been vacated by forces following the violence after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen’s Burhan Wani on 8 July.
“More than a dozen makeshift platforms in Kulgam and Islamabad (Anantnag) areas to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day, stages have been erected at different places; it is a symbolic protest,” a resident of Kulgam district, said on the phone.
“The interiors of all most all the districts in south Kashmir are filled with posters of Burhan Wani and Pakistani flags,” he added.
At least 57 people civilians and two policemen have been killed in the ongoing unrest and countless others have been injured during clashes. On Thursday evening a women, in capital Srinagar, died of shock when forces raided Bemina locality on the outskirts.
Journalist Muneeb Ul Haq, who published a popular community newspaper Varmul Post in north Kashmir, said the Pakistani flag being hoisted is no news now, as it has become a common sight across the old towns of both Sopore and Baramulla.
“But celebrating Pakistan's Independence Day is interesting, and I think it will happen across these vulnerable spots that have been at the forefront of anti-India protests for more than a month now,” Haq told Firstpost.
“The flags (Pakistani) erected at the inception of unrest are still at places were the police can’t taken them down, include the old town of Baramulla. Youths have broken down the staircases of an abandoned building in the old town, so that the police can’t reach the top floor,” Haq added.
Haq said in the Sopore town a Pakistani flag on top of a CCTV tower erected at Chankhan Bridge was hoisted weeks ago and is difficult for the authorities to bring it down.
Similarly in south of Kashmir, said Ajaz Ahmad, a resident of KP Road in Anantnag town, there is a possibility that thousands of people could assemble on the streets on Sunday to celebrate the Independence Day of Pakistan.
“I am sure, if not in the towns, then the villages — as we have witnessed in the past month — will witness massive demonstrations and celebrations across the region on that day,” he said.
The state government, sources said, have instructed police to avoid confronting massive demonstrates which could lead to casualties, something the state government would like to avoid at this crucial juncture.
“There was a huge fight in our village over who will guard the celebration material for the Pakistani Independence Day on Thursday evening,” Tufail, a resident of Uzram Pathri village in Pulwama district, told Firstpost.
Police officers in south Kashmir say there are large swathes of areas that are not in their control after they withdrew from these areas following the violence that erupted on 8 July, and attacks against government installations and police posts in which violent mobs tried to decamp with weapons.
Separatists have called for special prayers for the “stability of Pakistan” on Sunday as Srinagar’s major hospitals prepared for Friday by keeping doctors and supplies intact in case of situation deteriorating further.