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Article 35A row: J&K Police arrests several separatist leaders; state remains on edge amid heavy deployment of forces

  • After the deployment of 100 companies of paramilitary forces in Kashmir, people turned panicky as government cut down on the sale of petrol.

  • But Kashmir continued to remain on edge after the heavy deployment of forces and amid public fears that the situation between India and Pakistan will deteriorate.

  • The authorities have said that the deployment of forces has come ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in the state.

Srinagar: The crackdown on the separatist leaders in Kashmir continued with the police making several overnight arrests on Saturday even as the hearing on Article 35A, that grants special job and property rights to state residents, was deferred in the Supreme Court.

After the deployment of 100 companies of paramilitary forces in Kashmir, people turned panicky as government cut down on the sale of petrol and even asked the staff to keep open their ration depots last evening to provide rice and flour to the consumers. The ration depots remained even open today. But Director Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Mohammad Qasim Wani, said that the opening of the ration depots on Sunday was a “routine exercise” to clear up the available stocks.

The authorities arrested several separatist and religious leaders in the past two days even as hearing on the Article 35A case was deferred in the Supreme Court. Law Secretary, Anchal Sethi, said that the hearing was earlier slated for Tuesday, but has now been deferred.

 Article 35A row: J&K Police arrests several separatist leaders; state remains on edge amid heavy deployment of forces

Representational image. PTI

“The hearing is not listed for Tuesday. The case was carried forward as per the cause list issued earlier. Our Advocate on Record (AOR) has informed us that it is not listed for Tuesday,” he said.  The state government had earlier sought the deferment of the case in the Supreme Court, fearing protests. The BJP has, however, favoured the abrogation of the law, saying “it was a constitutional blunder.” Article 35A prevents any non-residents of Jammu and Kashmir from buying property, voting in elections, working in government jobs or getting benefits of scholarships.

But Kashmir continued to remain on edge after the heavy deployment of forces and amid public fears that the situation between India and Pakistan will deteriorate. Heavy cross-border shelling was witnessed between India and Pakistani troops along the border in Jammu region in past few days.

The authorities, however, continued with the arrests of separatist leaders in Kashmir following the shutdown call that was given by the separatist conglomerate Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), over the arrests and attempts to abrogate Article 35A. In response to the strike call, the shops and commercial establishments remained closed in Kashmir, while public transport was off the roads.

Several separatist leaders including Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yaseen Malik have been arrested while scores of Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) cadres including its head Abdul Hamid Fayaz were arrested during the night raids on Friday. The JRL put the number of JeI activists who have been arrested at 200. Many religious leaders were also arrested during the raids that continued at their houses in Kashmir on Saturday night.

The situation in Kashmir continued to remain grim and the possible indication of “escalation” of tensions between India and Pakistan triggered a widespread “scare” here. The government not only rushed in the paramilitary force personnel, but the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) replaced the Central Reserve Police (CRPF) from static guard duties at many places.

However, the authorities have said that the deployment of forces has come ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in the state. But the military aircraft and the fighter jets hovered in the sky in Kashmir, further adding to the chaos and panic. Governor Satya Pal Malik has asked the people to observe calm and not to pay “any heed to the rumours.”  However, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked both the Government of India (GoI) as well as the state government to clarify its position over the “series of emergency measures” which have been taken in the state recently as well as whether it was “a prelude to a war against Kashmir and its citizens.”

Senior PDP leader and former minister, Naeem Akhtar, said that the “state of Jammu and Kashmir is in very unsafe hands at present and that in a sensitive situation like this when Kashmir is trying to come to terms with the heavy loss of life in Pulwama and its fallout in the rest of the country, a deliberate attempt is being made to destabilise Jammu and Kashmir.”

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Updated Date: Feb 24, 2019 22:19:49 IST