Arrests, fresh deployment, rumours put Valley on edge
Officials say, deployment of paramilitaries election specific
Srinagar, Feb 23: Tension was palpable in Kashmir on Saturday as the government launched a massive crackdown on separatists and detained over 150 people, mainly from the Jamaat-e-Islami, including its chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz, ahead of a hearing in the Supreme Court on Article 35-A of the Constitution.
Though police termed the action as “routine” saying that leaders and “potential stone-pelters” have been picked up in the past, officials privy to the development said this was the first major crackdown on the Jamaat-e-Islami.
The hearing on Article 35-A, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of Jammu and Kashmir, is likely to take place in the apex court on Monday.
Heightened tension was palpable and people were seen in groups on streets even as security was tightened. Lots of rumours regarding well being of imprisoned separatist, Shabir Ahmad Shah, Article 35 A and Indo-Pak war were making rounds all over the whole day.
Orders issued by some government departments added to the fears of the people. The Government Medical College in Srinagar cancelled winter vacation of its faculty members and directed them to positively report for work on Monday.
The Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, which provides ration to people through its outlets, has directed its staff members in south Srinagar to ensure completing sale of food grains in their respective areas by Saturday evening.
They were also directed to keep the ration depots and sale outlets open on Sunday as well.
As many as 100 additional companies of the paramilitary (nearly 10,000 personnel) have been sent to Kashmir Valley in the apprehension of a “law and order situation”. Officially, no one has been able to provide reasons for such a massive deployment.
Markets in Lal Chowk, the commercial hub of the Valley, and adjoining areas opened more than an hour late as business owners were not sure of the situation in the wake of detention of over 150 separatist and Jamaat cadres during the night on Friday.
The sound of frequent flying of fighter jets till 1.30 am on Saturday added to the worries of the residents due to simmering Indo-Pak tension following the Pulwama suicide car bomb attack that left 49 CRPF soldiers dead on February 14.
However, IAF officials described it as a “routine exercise”.
Long queues were seen outside petrol stations and people were thronging provision shops and buying essential supplies.
The Jamaat issued a statement condemning the detentions and said "...the move is a well-designed conspiracy to pave way for further uncertainty in the region."
Besides this, police also detained JKLF chief Yaseen Malik on Friday night, and lodged him in central jail.
The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), an umbrella coalition of separatist groups, has called for a shutdown in the Valley on Sunday.
"To protest these arbitrary mass arrests, nocturnal raids, insecurity among people due to state repression, killings and censorship and any tampering with Article 35-A, a strike will be observed on 24 Feb 2019 (Sunday)," the JRL said in a statement.
Meanwhile, putting the speculations to rest, a top government official said that additional companies of paramilitaries have been brought into Kashmir for election purposes.
“The state government has requisitioned 400 companies of paramilitaries for forthcoming general elections. These companies will be brought in a phased manner,” the official said, adding, it needs a lots of logistics to accommodate such huge number of forces.
Rejecting the rumours regarding Article 35 A or war, the official said that the deployment is exclusively for election purposes.
Commenting on crackdown on separatists including Jama’at Islami, he said this exercise to is election specific.
“Ahead of Panchayat and ULB polls, hundreds of over ground workers and separatists were detained. Same is being done now,” he said.
Govt clears air about rationing of fuel
Says, lifting ration from stores is a routine monthly exercise
SRINAGAR, FEBRUARY 23: The Divisional Administration in Kashmir has stated that rationing of fuel in the division has been ordered because of shortage of stocks having resulted from persistent closure of the Srinagar-Jammu highway.
The administration has said that efforts are underway to replenish the stocks at the earliest and that the rationing order will be withdrawn as soon as the stocks are received.
It has asked the general public not to heed the rumours suggesting other motives and sought their cooperation.
Meanwhile, the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCS&CA) this evening clarified that the order to lift ration from its stores is a routine monthly exercise to make way for dumping next supplies.
“This is a routine monthly exercise and people are advised not to panic,” the spokesman said.
Moreover, the spokesman said that the said order also has been withdrawn to clear any confusion.