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Normalcy of sorts returns to Kashmir

The shutdown call by joint separatist leadership continues, with weekly relaxation announced by them. As markets remained closed, government and private offices and banks functioned normally and some educational institutions too started functioning normally, private vehicles and public transport plied on the roads. Though shops remained shut street vendors could be seen selling various articles.

Markets abuzz with activity in and around Lal Chowk in Srinagar on 4 December

 Markets remained abuzz with business activities and several educational institutions remained open on the weekly relaxation days (Saturdays and Sundays, December 3 and 4 respectively) announced by joint separatist leadership. The recent weekly protest calendar was issued by separatists from December 2 to 8 with full day relaxation on December 3 and 4 (Saturday and Sunday).

Congregational Friday prayers were offered on November 25 after more than four months since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani alongwith his two associates in south Kashmir on July 8. Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who usually delivered sermon before Friday prayers was under house arrest and was not allowed to visit the mosque. In his absence, Moulana Syed Naqashbandi led the prayers. Mirwaiz however, delivered the sermon at Jamia Masjid here on December 2.

JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik was detained after he tried to march towards Lal Chowk here on December 2. Before his detention, Malik demanded release of all persons detained since July this year. The government on November 26 foiled a meeting of joint separatist leadership (Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik) scheduled at Geelani’s residence. The meeting was reportedly aimed to frame the future course of action and to accommodate various suggestions put forth by various stakeholders. The authorities had earlier foiled their meeting on November 2. The trio met twice so far on November 6 and November 8 (when all the stakeholders were invited to decide future course of action). After their November 8 meeting, the separatist had asserted that they have been given “a mandate to continue agitation and the suggestions from cross-section of society will be accommodated.”

 Authorities imposed restrictions in parts of Srinagar city on December 5 to foil ‘Lal Chowk march’ called by joint separatist leadership. All roads leading to Lal Chowk were sealed and barricades erected to prevent the march. The separatists were scheduled to lead a protest march to Lal Chowk as per the weekly protest calendar issued by them. While Geelani continued to remain under house arrest, authorities arrested Malik to prevent him from leading a march (December 5). Malik took refuge inside a local shrine (Dastgeer Sahab) in Sara-e-Bala area of Srinagar to evade detention ahead of the proposed march. Later, he was arrested outside the shrine.

While protests erupted at Palhallan in north Kashmir against the arrest of local youth, Devsar and other adjoining villages in south Kashmir observed shutdown against the allegedly killing of Fisheries department employee (Asadullah  Kumar) by the security forces (December 4). A Government High School was torched at Narsangri-Larnoo in south Kashmir’s Kokernag in Anantnag district in a mysterious fire incident (late December 3). The fire was later brought under control.

In the meantime Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 27 asserted that high participation of students in the recently held examination here “reflected youth’s resolve to strive for a better future through studies”. Over 95 percent students of class 12th and 99 percent students of class 10th appeared in their respective examinations held on November 14 and November 15, respectively. In its reaction Hurriyat (G) on November 28 said that “the participation in examinations does not mean that our students have lost vision of basic rights.”

In another twist, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, addressing a function in the Chenab Valley in Jammu on November 25 questioned India’s claim over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) saying, “Kya yeh tumare baap ka hai”. He further said “Pakistan is one of the stakeholders (of the Kashmir issue) which even the Government of India has accepted.” He added that the government will have no option but to start talks with Pakistan so that the “atrocities through which people of Jammu and Kashmir are undergoing will come to an end.”

The senior leader had on November 23 said that autonomy to both sides of Jammu and Kashmir was the only viable solution to nearly seven-decade old problem between the two countries. “Borders cannot be changed but these can be made irrelevant and soft for people to people exchange and opening new vistas of trade and commerce for overall economic prosperity of the region.” He added Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India on three subjects of defence, foreign affairs and communication that had been re-emphasized by the former Sadr-e-Riyasat Dr. Karan Singh in Parliament recently.  

Meanwhile, seven soldiers, including two army officers and six militants were killed in twin attacks at Nagrota and Samba in Jammu division on November 29. A high alert was sounded here after the twin militant attack.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2016 on page no. 10

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