Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government, in a late night order Monday, withdrew the two-day curfew it had imposed in the Valley, but Srinagar and other parts of the Valley woke up to severe restrictions Wednesday — the first anniversary of the scrapping of Article 370 that gave a special status to the erstwhile state.
The J&K administration had said Tuesday though curfew was being lifted, Section 144 and Covid-19 restrictions would remain in place. Judging by the enforcement of the restrictions, however, the situation in Srinagar was no less than a lockdown.
Just like in other parts of India, the Covid-19 lockdown had been relaxed across J&K with shops and other commercial facilities operating normally. However, on Wednesday, the streets of Srinagar were deserted — shops and other commercial facilities remained closed amid a heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces.
Main roads and junctions in Srinagar were barricaded with security forces governing entry and exit of private vehicles. Several private vehicles, barring ones that come under essential services, were stopped at multiple junctions in Srinagar and turned back.
Areas considered “sensitive” by authorities were completely off limits, including those housing offices and residences of mainstream Kashmiri politicians.
Fate of all-party meeting uncertain
Srinagar MP and National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abullah had called an all-party meet Wednesday, but judging by the restrictions put in place, the fate of the proposed meet is uncertain.
The former CM had asked political leaders from other regional parties to arrive at his Gupkar Road residence Wednesday. The last time an all-party meet took place was in August last year when regional parties expressed their resolve to fight for J&K’s special status together and signed what came to be known as the Gupkar Declaration.
A year later, the entry and exits to Gupkar Road were blocked. Media personnel, including this correspondent, were not allowed to head towards the road despite possessing a movement mass. Several politicians, including former J&K CMs Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti (who continues to remain detained under the Public Safety Act), reside in this locality.
Similarly, entries to residences of other political parties in manned government colonies and quarters were blocked by the local police and entry of journalists was stopped both at Srinagar’s Church Lane and Tulsi Bagh locality.
Roads leading to offices of NC and PDP were also blocked and media entry was stopped here as well.
‘Not sure if they will allow meeting’
Anantnag MP and NC leader, Justice Hasnain Masoodi (retd), confirmed that his party president had called for a meeting but was not sure if the same will be allowed to take place. “Look at the restrictions. We were informed that curfew was lifted so we decided to call an all-party meeting to discuss our future roadmap but I am not sure if they will allow the meeting,” said Masoodi.
Senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar said his party was invited to the all-party meet but authorities since last night have once again hauled up its local leaders including Firdous Tak and Rouf Ahmed.
“Today completes one year of detention. We had planned to send PDP leaders to the meet, at least those who are not illegally detained or house arrested but given that the entire Kashmir has been arrested once again, we are not sure about the meeting,” Akhtar said.
Peoples Conference spokesperson Adnan Ashraf said his party chief Sajad Lone, who had recently been released from house arrest and moments later informed that he could not leave his residence until 5 August, would have not been able to attend the meet. “But we were going to send our leaders to the meeting. Now whenever the meet is called next, 6 or 7 August, all leaders should come,” he said.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.