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Battling the deadliest spell of Violence: Kashmir calm but tense as curfew, shutdown continue

"I appeal to everybody to restore calm and peace so that further loss of lives is avoided," the CM Mehbooba Mufti said

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Violence Struck Kashmir. Image Source: newsdog.today
  • Life remained paralysed almost across the South Kashmir due to the restriction and separatist-called shutdown
  • The Jammu-Srinagar highway was blocked due to continuous curfew
  • CM Mehbooba Mufti paid tributes to the 1931 martyrs and made a fresh appeal for calm in the valley where at least 35 civilians and a policeman have been killed

The restive Kashmir Valley, battling the deadliest spell of violence in years, appeared calm but tense on Wednesday, July 13, amid sporadic incidents of stone-pelting clashes even as large areas continued to be under strict curfew for the fifth day.

Two more persons wounded in street fighting in the past four days died here early on Wednesday, taking the death toll to 36 in the violence triggered by the death of a top militant on July 8.

Life remained paralysed almost across the valley due to the restriction and separatist-called shutdown. South Kashmir – the worst hit in the latest bout of unrest – was virtually cut off from the rest of the state amid snapped private cellphone services and strict prohibitory orders.

However, the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) cellphone network was functional.

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The Jammu-Srinagar highway, the only all-weather motorable link to the valley that passes through south Kashmir, was blocked due to continuous curfew. Private traffic to and from Srinagar on the highway is allowed only at night, officials said.

In Srinagar, roads were deserted while shops and other businesses, banks and private offices were closed. There was a thin presence of employees in the government secretariat. People in the old city complained of hardships as supplies of essentials had begun to dry up in the five days of curfew.

Wednesday, July 13, a police spokesman said here, passed off peacefully amid fears that separatist leaders may stoke trouble.

They had called for a protest march to observe “Martyrs’ Day” in remembrance of Kashmiris killed in police firing on protesters against the Dogra rule on July 13, 1931.

Top separatists Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, in house detention for five days, defied the restrictions and tried to walk towards the martyrs’ graveyard in curfew-bound oldSrinagar. Police detained them briefly.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, however, visited the graveyard under a heavy security cover with her senior cabinet colleagues.

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She paid tributes to the 1931 martyrs and made a fresh appeal for calm in the valley where at least 35 civilians and a policeman have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters since the killing of the militant commander, Burhan Wani. More than 1,500 people have been injured.

Burhan Muzaffar Wani. Image source: www.india.com
Burhan Muzaffar Wani. Image source: www.india.com

“I appeal to everybody to restore calm and peace so that further loss of lives is avoided,” the Chief Minister said.

Mehbooba Mufti said “the loss of precious lives” in firing by security forces was “regretted but nothing can bring them back.

“While I am deeply grieved, my grief cannot match that of the families who have lost their near and dear ones,” she said. Her Peoples Democratic Party has its political base in the worst-hit south Kashmir.

The region has witnessed 33 of the 36 deaths. One person each was killed in Srinagar and north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. (IANS)

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Post-Pulwama, Kashmir Helpline Gets Over 500 Calls

About the challenges Ladakh faces after a Pulwama-type attack, he said its economy suffers since it is almost fully dependent on tourism

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Pulwama, JeM, Terror, Kashmir
The Indian Army said that all the top leadership of the JeM outfit have been eliminated by security forces in the Kashmir Valley within 100 hours of the terror attack. Pixabay

With nationalist sentiments on a high after the suicide attack that left 40 CRPF troopers dead, it is the Kashmiris around the country who have felt the heat. Post-February 14 Pulwama attack, a helpline for students from the state in the NCR area received over 500 calls — more than 25 calls a day.

Vidushi Kapoor, Jammu and Kashmir’s Liaison Officer in-charge of Delhi-NCR area, told IANS that although no major incident was reported, she received around 500-600 calls, especially from Dehradun, from Kashmiri students saying that they are “feeling insecure”.

“Police and college authorities were very helpful. Full security and support was provided to the students at all times,” she said. However, the charged-up environment and reports from other areas has prompted many Kashmiri students to return home, she added.

“The environment has cooled down now, but two weeks were quite upsetting… the students were really scared.”

Kapoor is one of the seven Liaison Officers appointed around the country by the state government in November 2018 for support of students from the state. After the attack, their contacts were published in newspapers and social media to enable students to contact them.

More worryingly, the situation also shows that the rift between the state’s three major regions – Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh – extends to influence the perception of their people around India.Kapoor noted that the helpline had not got a single call from any students from the Jammu region.

Meanwhile, it is those from the Kashmir Valley who are squeezed between the terror outfits and the security forces.

Noting how all this takes a mental toll on its residents, Mehr (name changed), a 21-year-old living in the Kashmir Valley, said: “We are in repressive conditions. Being surrounded by security men is normal for us…livelihood, schools being suspended is normal.”

About the Pulwama attack, she said: “Violence wouldn’t solve the issue. The attack was not a good thing” but noted that people joined militancy because of “excesses”.

Taniya Tikoo, a Kashmiri Pandit living in Delhi, said it is best for both India and Pakistan if Kashmiris are allowed to have a dialogue among themselves. “It will be a win-win situation for everyone,” she said.

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FILE – Indian paramilitary soldiers stand by the wreckage of a bus after an explosion in Pampore, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

People from Jammu region have a different take.

Citing the recent grenade attack in Jammu bus stand, Delhi University student Saloni, who hails from Kathua, said, “A lot of violence has shifted to Jammu (region).”

She demanded greater linkage between the state and India. “India has been investing so much… we should be integrated with the rest of the country and Articles 370, 35A (of the Constitution) should be scrapped – they have done no good so far.”

Hitu, another girl from Jammu region studying in Delhi, however, said whenever any violence takes place in Kashmir, it affects everyone including “our schools, banks, highways also close”.

She also said that people from Jammu and Ladakh region “have a general feeling of being ignored by the leaders”.

Jigmat Paljor, President of the Ladakh Student Welfare Society in Delhi, is in agreement with his Jammu counterparts – but to a point.

Paljor told IANS how his people feel alienated because with all focus on Kashmir, issues of Ladakh, which is the state’s biggest region but sparsely populated, get overlooked.

Also Read- Women of Pakistan Protest Against Workplace Harassment, Child Marriage

About the challenges Ladakh faces after a Pulwama-type attack, he said its economy suffers since it is almost fully dependent on tourism.

“And since Ladakh has a border with both Pakistan and China, there is always fear of tensions escalating….”

While Paljor maintains Kashmir is an integral part of the country, he wants Articles 370 and 35A to stay as his region “is very fragile and susceptible in terms of economy, culture, language, environment, from outside influence”. (IANS)