Kashmir Update: Rajnath to Lead All-Party Delegation; Curfew Lifted in Most Parts

Curfew in Kashmir. Credit: Shome Basu

Curfew in Kashmir. Credit: Shome Basu

A month and a half after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by security forces in Kashmir, the state is far from back to normal. Widespread protests and clashes between security forces and protestors have been seen in the last six weeks. The situation has been slightly calmer in the last few days.

Rajnath Singh to visit Kashmir

An all-party delegation led by home minister Rajnath Singh will visit Jammu and Kashmir on September 4 and is expected to interact with a cross section of people as part of efforts to bring peace in the Valley.

The home minister, on Sunday, had an hour-long meeting with BJP president Amit Shah, finance minister Arun Jaitley and minister of state for the prime minister’s office Jitendra Singh and discussed the modalities of the all-party delegation. Sources said the meeting discussed the possible individuals and groups with whom the delegation may interact during its tour of the state.

The government has sounded out different political parties to convey the names of their functionaries who will be part of the team. On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about Kashmir in his Mann Ki Baat radio programme.

Ekta (unity) and Mamata (affection) was the crux of all interactions I had recently on Kashmir situation,” he said. Modi said those pushing the youth towards stone pelting in Kashmir will some day have to answer them. He also said that all political parties spoke in one voice on Kashmir, sending out a strong message to the world, as well as separatists. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had met the prime minister on Saturday.

Curfew lifted from Pulwama

Curfew was lifted today from the restive Pulwama town following gradual improvement in the situation across Kashmir, leaving the city’s MR Gunj and Nowhatta police stations as the only areas of the Valley under curbs, even as normal life remained affected for the 53rd day.

“Only two police station areas in Srinagar city – MR Gunj and Nowhatta – are under curfew today,” a police officer said, adding that no other area in Valley was under curfew anymore.

He said the decision to lift curbs was taken following improvement in the situation.

There were minor stone-pelting incidents at a few places yesterday, but the overall situation remained peaceful and under control throughout the Valley, he said.

Curfew was lifted from the entire Valley except three police station areas yesterday, 51 days after it was first imposed.

The officer, however, said security forces had been deployed in strength in sensitive areas of the Valley to maintain law and order.

Life in Srinagar city has started limping towards normalcy since yesterday as there was increased movement of private cars and auto-rickshaws on the roads.

However, public transport continued to be off the roads due to the strike called by separatist groups who have asked women to assemble and occupy local chowks and centres from ‘Zuhr’ (afternoon prayer) to ‘Asr’ (late afternoon prayer) in towns and villages.

Even as schools, colleges and other educational institutions and shops remained closed due to the strike, the attendance in government offices and work in banks has improved since yesterday, the officer said.

Curfew was clamped in entire Valley on July 9 following violence in the aftermath of killing of Wani in an encounter in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district a day earlier.

The violence has left 68 people, including two policemen, dead and several thousand injured.

Meanwhile, mobile internet continued to remain suspended in the entire Valley and the outgoing facility on prepaid mobiles remained barred.

The separatist camp, which is spearheading the agitation in the Valley over the civilian killings during the protests against Wani’s killing, has extended the strike call in the Valley till September 1.

Expert committee on non-lethal weapons submits report

A committee, set up to find alternatives to pellet guns in the Kashmir Valley, on Monday suggested the use of chilli-filled grenades and ‘stun lac shells’ to control mobs in addition to pellet guns. This committee was set up after pellet guns have come under serious criticism for causing blindness and grievous injuries.

Also read: After Pellet Guns, Government Explores Other “Non-Lethal” Crowd Control Weapons

Pellet guns are, however, unlikely to be completely banned but will be fired in “rarest of rare cases”.