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Tension grips Kashmir amid separatist call for shutdown; govt caps sale of petrol, asks health staff to stock meds

Srinagar: Tension prevailed in Kashmir after over 100 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) were deployed in the region, including personnel of the Border Security Force and Indo-Tibetan Border Police. The situation worsened after authorities limited the sale of petrol each day to 3 litres for consumers, and the health department issued directions to staff to stock up on medicines and surgical equipment at hospitals, asking them to not leave their postings without permission.

The health department has asked Chief Medical Officers to collect "available supplies of drugs, medicines, surgical items and other allied items" for hospitals from the drug warehouse of the Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation on Sunday. The order, issued by the director of health services of Kashmir, read that this was to be done "in view of the prevailing situation" in the Valley.

After news of the deployment of additional forces spread, there was panic buying of petrol, which led to long queues outside petrol stations in Srinagar.

Former chief minister and National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah voiced his concern over the situation and tweeted:

Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti also took to Twitter to express concern over the situation prevailing in Kashmir.

However, divisional commissioner of Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan clarified that the orders limiting the sale of petrol were issued to regulate the consumption of fuel, given the shortage in Kashmir due to the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar Highway.

"The last time, too, we had limited the sale of petrol to 3 litres per day. It is simply because the stocks are in short supply. We had done this 15 days ago, as well. Tankers are on the way, and the supply will be replenished."

Director of health services of Kashmir, Dr Kunzes Dolma, said the order directing staff to stock up on medicines had been issued keeping the tensions in the Valley in mind on account of the separatist leaders' call for a strike on Sunday as well as the shortages at hospitals.

 Tension grips Kashmir amid separatist call for shutdown; govt caps sale of petrol, asks health staff to stock meds

Representational Image. Reuters

"We have issued directions to have medicines picked up from the drug warehouse at Bemina. We get an annual supply from the Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation on annual basis, but this did not come yet this year. We were intimated that they had received the supplies, and that we should go collect them," she said, adding that the staff were told not to leave their postings because of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The separatist conglomerate, Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), has urged people in Kashmir to observe a shutdown to protest "mass arrests, censorship and any tampering with Article 35A", which prohibits non-Kashmiris from buying land in Jammu and Kashmir or applying for government jobs.

After reports said the Supreme Court will hear a case on Article 35A of the Constitution on Monday, the JRL called for the shutdown, saying the "challenge to the heredity state subject law is an extremely important issue for the people as it is akin to our very existence as a people and directly linked to the Kashmir dispute".

On Saturday, after the arrest of several separatist leaders, there were clashes between security forces and protesters at a number of locations in Kashmir. Also, in view of the call for a strike, the police said they will restrict the movement of people in a number of areas that fall under the jurisdiction of a few police stations in Srinagar city.

Furthermore, senior government officials perceived the swift deployment of security forces in the Valley as well as the restrictions on the sale of petrol as an indication of the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.

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Updated Date: Feb 24, 2019 11:11:48 IST