Kashmir celebrates first Independence Day since scrapping of Article 370 amid heavy security: Satya Pal Malik unfurls National Flag in Srinagar

  • Road that leads to the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium in Srinagar has been cordoned off with steel barricades and spools of barbed wire while pedestrian movement has been disallowed near the famous clock tower at Lal Chowk

  • There were also reports that some right wing activists will hoist the flag at Lal Chowk, but police have said that they will take proper action against the people who attempt to disturb the peace in the region

  • Governor Satya Pal Malik will hoist the National Flag at the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium. This will be part of the main Independence Day function

Kashmir Valley continues to face lockdown as the presence of the troops has been stepped up across the region ahead of 73rd Independence Day celebrations on 15 August when the National Flag will be unfurled in Srinagar city, as well as, the different districts in Jammu and Kashmir.

Road that leads to the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium in Srinagar has been cordoned off with steel barricades and spools of barbed wire while pedestrian movement has been disallowed near the famous clock tower at Lal Chowk. Earlier, authorities have foiled attempts to hoist the National Flag at Lal Chowk. Earlier in the day, a few activists from Bharatiya Janata Party unfurled the National Flag at Zethyar temple near Raj Bhawan in Srinagar.

There were also reports that some right wing activists will hoist the flag at Lal Chowk, but police have said that they will take proper "action" against the people who attempt to disturb the peace in the region. Even as home ministry authorities claimed that there were no untoward incidents reported from the Valley and adjoining areas, security has been beefed up across the Valley. Due to restrictions, movement of traffic was thin in Kashmir, while shops and business establishments remained shut on Wednesday. The security deployment was increased in the neighbourhood areas around Sher-e-Kashmir stadium.

Ali Mohammad, a 60-year-old resident of Sonwar, said that he anticipated the people will take out big protests after the security curbs were lifted completely in Kashmir. He said that besides the heavy deployment of troops on the main road of the neighbourhood, the security personnel also patrolled in the lanes and by-lanes. "It is a total blockade. The phone lines are down and now the security lockdown has become more intense ahead of the 15 August function," he said.

 Kashmir celebrates first Independence Day since scrapping of Article 370 amid heavy security: Satya Pal Malik unfurls National Flag in Srinagar

Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol the Chenab river on the eve of Independence Day along the India-Pakistan border in Akhnoor. PTI

In Sonwar, that lies near the Indian Army headquarters in Srinagar, Mohammad said people took out peaceful protests after Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370 on 5 August. He said that the strength of forces was increased subsequently.

Authorities said that Governor Satya Pal Malik will hoist the National Flag at the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium. This will be part of the main Independence Day function. Jammu and Kashmir Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal said that he was hopeful of further relaxations in the security clampdown after the dress rehearsal for the 15 August Independence Day celebrations conclude in various districts. Kansal further added that the functions will be held not only at the "divisional level", but also at 'district and sub-district-level'. He, however, said that "overall situation in Kashmir has remained calm due to which the government has issued further relaxation in prohibitory orders in many areas."

Police officials said that they were considering lifting restrictions following the security review which will be held after 15 August. Additional Director General of Police Munir Ahmed Khan said that the restrictions were lifted in different neighbourhoods after taking into account the law and order situation. "In Jammu division the restrictions have been lifted completely and schools and business establishments are functioning normally there. It is for the district magistrates and other concerned officials to assess the situations in their areas to maintain law and order," he said.

The top cop said that the police have made detentions, including under the public safety act (PSA) to ensure that there was peace in the region. Under the PSA, the people can be held for months without trial. The law has been described "draconian" by many human rights groups who have cited that it was flagrantly abused as the orders for detention were issued by the Deputy Commissioners and not by the courts.

Around the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium a multi-tier security was put in place while the government force personnel were deployed in heavy strength elsewhere in Kashmir as well. Manzoor Ahmad, a labourer, said that "revocation of the article 370 has shown that the mainstream leaders like former chief ministers, Omar Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti, were mere puppets." "The situation has been never so worst in Kashmir. It is a siege," he said.

The state and the central government have, however, maintained that situation in Kashmir is under control. Kansal said that the situation in Kashmir was comparatively better than what was witnessed after the agitation over the killing of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. In the 2016 agitation, that lasted for several months, at least 72 civilians were killed in clashes with the government forces.

"The state had to pass through difficult circumstances, there had been reports of loss of human lives, casualties. In the present circumstances, however, it is a matter of some satisfaction that there has been no casualty, there has been no loss of lives," Kansal said. The officer said a large number of devotees offered prayers on Eid on Monday and there was no report of any untoward incident.

Referring to the facilities offered by the administration, he said in Srinagar alone, almost 14,000 phone calls have been made by people through public call points. Additional DGP of Jammu and Kashmir Police Javed Gillani, who also spoke to the media, said there have been detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and some people have also been shifted out of the state

"As of now, as we speak, there are only two people in the hospital with some injuries, rest of them had got some minor injuries and discharged," he said. Gillani also said the administration has put reasonable restrictions to prevent any law and order situation.

Restriction on movement and communication were imposed on August 5 when the Centre stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and split it into two Union territories.

Bashir Ahmad Bhat a 58-year-old resident in Sonwar said that the "revocation of special status of the state could ignite a spell of unrest" in Kashmir as the "people have to suddenly face a situation when they have to compete for jobs with the outsiders and non residents can even own land and property here."

Updated Date: Aug 15, 2019 10:56:19 IST