Kashmir Curfew Lifted After 51 Days, Govt Continues Crackdown on Separatists

Several Hurriyat leaders and associates have been arrested since Saturday, even as government makes plans to hold talks with Kashmir separatists.

The curfew in Kashmir, which lasted for 51 days, was lifted today though restrictions remained in place under Section 144 which prohibits unlawful assembly of four or more people. The Pulwama district and some parts of Srinagar also remained under curfew.

The Hindu reported that the decision was made after a high level security meeting on Sunday evening.

“Following an improvement in the situation, there will be no restrictions in the Kashmir Valley from tomorrow except in Pulwama and the areas falling under the jurisdictions of the police station of M.R. Gunj and the police station of Nowhatta,” a police officer told the Indian Express.

The Kashmir Valley has suffered unrest since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani , in July and clashes have resulted in nearly 70 deaths with thousands injured.

The government, however, continues its crackdown against separatist leaders, with the arrest of Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s deputy, Ashraf Sehrai from his home in Srinagar. Geelani’s personal secretary, Peer Saifullah was also arrested on Saturday.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the leader of another Hurriyat faction, was also taken into custody for the first time since 1990.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the situation on Mann Ki Baat on Sunday, saying that unity (ekta) and compassion (mamata) could together bring peace to the Valley. Moreover, he said that any life lost in Kashmir is a loss for the country, irrespective of whether they are protesters, or army personnel.

His address came a day after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met the prime minister on Saturday, and addressed the protesters saying, “I may have got angry with you and you may be angry with me, but give me a chance”.

Mufti and Modi have discussed a ‘three point plan’ which reportedly involves a dialogue with separatists via eminent interlocutors from outside the government.

“Everyone wants the bloodshed to stop. But dialogue can only happen with those who want it. I appeal to the Hurriyat to help in getting peace back on the streets, to stop the killings,” Mufti had said.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh reportedly reviewed the situation today with top BJP and government functionaries.  Singh discussed the Kashmir situation with BJP President Amit Shah, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh. An all-party delegation to Kashmir was reportedly discussed, which is likely to visit Kashmir in the first week of  September.

Following the meeting, Jitendra Singh only said, “Rajnath Singh is a senior leader and we have come for guidance,”

The protests in Kashmir, on the other hand, are due to continue, despite the curfew being lifted, with the strike that was extended till September 1 still in place.

(With PTI inputs)