Kashmir's Pulwama and Shopian tense despite thin troop presence; arrests of several youths spark public anger
The town of Pulwama remained shut, and security forces were seen patrolling on the main roads.
A complete shutdown was observed in Pulwama town and many parts of Shopian on Saturday.
Several protests against security forces have been organised in these districts.
Security forces have arrested a large number of youths in the past 20 days, which also triggered protests in several places.
Shopian/Pulwama: The presence of troops has been visibly thin in the militancy-hit areas of Pulwama and Shopian in southern Kashmir, in comparison to the massive deployment of forces in Srinagar city. Nevertheless, the shops have remained shut in the district while several incidents of stone-pelting and anti-India protests were reported from across the region after the abrogation of Article 370, that had barred the non-residents from buying land and property in the state.
A complete shutdown was observed in Pulwama town and many parts of Shopian on Saturday. Several protests against security forces have been organised in these districts. Amid the shutdown, pedestrian as well as vehicular movement remained thin across Pulwama and Shopian. The town of Pulwama remained shut, and security forces were seen patrolling on the main roads.
Abdul Gani, a grocer of Keegam area of Shopian, said that he has not opened his shop even once since the revocation of the special status. He said, “The anger is only deepening, and there is a possibility that people will hit the streets in large numbers in the coming weeks. Our identity has been lost. We could be deprived of our land and properties if non-residents come and settle down here in large numbers.”
Security forces have arrested a large number of youths in the past 20 days, which also triggered protests in several places. Family members of those arrested are worried about the safety of their relatives after they have learnt from the authorities that they have been shifted to prisons outside the state.
A day after security forces arrested 20-year-old Mamoon Rasool, brother of slain militant Naseer Ahmad Pandit, from Kareembad area of Pulwama, along with four other youth, local residents clashed with the forces. The protesters resisted attempts to arrest other youths in the area.
Mamoon’s father, Ghulam Rasool Pandit, said his son was arrested in an overnight raid on 8 August and taken to Central Jail in Srinagar, from where he has been shifted to a prison in Agra. “I don’t know where he has been lodged at Agra. He is innocent and has never been booked in any case previously. We are worried about his condition. I plan to visit Agra to meet him now,” he said.
Government spokesperson Rohit Kansal, however, said that the detentions of the youths were aimed at preventing incidents of law and order disturbance. “We are facing a situation of cross-border terrorism and public order. The local law enforcing authorities are taking a decision on whatever is required to maintain public peace. These may include arrests and detentions. These are law enforcement decisions taken at a local level, but these are subject to dynamic evaluation and re-evaluation. If there are arrests taking place, there are also releases taking place of some people who are not seen to be a threat to peace,” he said.
Parts of southern Kashmir have erupted in rage over the raids by the forces. In the sleepy village of Daramdora of Shopian, security forces plastered posters on walls that listed out the benefits of the revocation of Article 370. The posters said that after the revocation of the special status, girls would benefit from educational opportunities, new avenues of employment will be created and tourism will receive a fillip.
But local residents alleged that security personnel in the village ransacked the houses of two boys who have been missing for the past one-and-a-half year.
Mushtaq Ahmad Hurra said that security personnel ransacked his house as they were looking for his son who has been missing for the past one-and-a-half year, along with another village boy. The duo had told their parents that they were going to Saudi Arabia to work at a hotel. They had told their families would not work in Saudi Arabia. Since then, they have not contacted their families.
At both houses, clothes and utensils were lying scatted. Hurra said that security personnel also beat up his daughter and son.
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