On day 66 of shutdown, Kashmir valley braces for tense Eid

ArraySrinagar: With mobile and broadband services suspended on Monday, curfew to be re-imposed and few signs of any celebrations, the Kashmir Valley braced for a tense Eid on Tuesday with separatists calling for a march to the office of United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) here.

All mobile phone services, apart from BSNL’s post-paid connections, were suspended across the valley on Monday, the 66th day of the shutdown, as intelligence officials said there were “inputs that separatists are planning large-scale violence on Eid in Srinagar and elsewhere”.

Broadband Internet facility on fixed landlines was suspended later.

Authorities on Monday decided to impose curfew in all 10 districts of Kashmir Valley as well as in Srinagar to prevent the march to the UNMOGIP office in the Sonwar area of the summer capital.

Even as shops, businesses, schools and colleges, petrol bunks and offices remained shut on a call by separatists, now extended to September 16, some areas on Srinagar’s outskirts had some shops selling essentials ahead of the festival, though two of the most sought-after food items on Eid — mutton and breads — remained largely unavailable to the people of the valley.

Separatists have appealed for austere Eid celebrations as a mark of respect for the victims of the ongoing unrest, sparked by the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

The toll in the unrest stands at 80, including two policemen, and several thousand injured, many of them partially or fully blinded by pellets used for crowd control.

Security personnel have been deployed in Srinagar and other places in the valley. Before the decision to impose curfew on Eid day, a senior police official had told IANS: “Restrictions have been imposed in Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts.”

Curbs had also been imposed in Khanyar, Nowhatta and M R Gunj police station areas of Srinagar city, the official said. The valley will remain shut despite Eid celebrations on Tuesday, he added.

One civilian was killed and 17 others, including seven policemen, were injured when guerrillas lobbed a grenade on Monday evening at Sherbagh police station in Anantnag town, said a police official. Five of the seven injured policemen were critical and have been shifted to Srinagar for treatment.

Meanwhile, security forces found the body of a fourth militant inside an under construction mini secretariat building in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district, where a gunfight began on Sunday.

A senior police official said while carrying out room-to-room searches in the building in Poonch town, security forces found the body, taking the toll of militants killed in the operation to four.

On Sunday morning, the holed-up guerrillas had started a gunfight with the security forces which resulted in the killing of three militants and one policeman.

Five others — a police official, a civilian and three soldiers — were injured in the attack.

Authorities said ‘Carvan-e-Aman’, the weekly bus service across the Line of Control (LoC) from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-held Kashmir, was suspended on Monday because of Eid, and all passengers informed about the decision.

Despite the ongoing unrest in the valley, the bus service had continued uninterrupted carrying about 78 people who travelled across the LoC between the two parts of divided Kashmir during this period.

“The cross LoC bus service continued uninterrupted since July 9 except on July 11 and July 18 when the service was suspended because of the law and order situation in the valley,” an official said here.

Meanwhile, Human rights watchdog Amnesty International accused India of using excessive force against protesters in Kashmir.

Executive Director of Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel, in a statement issued here, said: “Security forces are using arbitrary and excessive force in response to protests in Jammu and Kashmir.”

He added, “India is violating international standards and worsening the human rights crisis in the state.”

“Pellet-firing shotguns have injured and blinded even peaceful protesters and bystanders. Children have been hit by pellets from these shotguns while sitting inside their homes.”

The statement quoted media reports of September 2, saying, “India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) approved the use of PAVA (Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide) shells — a chilli-based munition — as an alternative to pellet-firing shotguns, to be used only in ‘rare’ cases.”

“However, there have been over 100 reported cases of pellet injuries in the first week of September at hospitals in Srinagar,” it stated.