Thousands of paramilitary police have been deployed in Kashmir’s Srinagar, schools shut and roads and neighbourhoods barricaded since the Centre on Monday abolished Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories. The Parliament approved a resolution and a bill to this effect on Tuesday.
Officials told PTI a curfew has not been declared, but authorities have ordered strict implementation of Section 144 of the CrPC which prohibits assembly of over five people in an area.
There are reports of clashes from across Kashmir Valley but details are still not known because of the clampdown on communication links, they said.
However, two police officers told Reuters there have been sporadic protests. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
There has been stone-pelting in at least 30 places across Srinagar since Tuesday night, one of them said. At least 13 people have been admitted to the city’s main government hospital with pellet injuries, he added.
On Wednesday evening, Srinagar’s old quarter was locked down, with policemen in riot gear deployed every few meters, and barbed-wire checkpoints every few hundred meters. Near the Jama Masjid, which has long been the centre of protests in Srinagar, bricks and rocks from recent stone-pelting incidents were strewn in at least three locations, Reuters reported.
A witness told the news agency that there had also been stone-pelting in Bemina area in northwest Srinagar, where some roads had been blocked by poles and boulders. “There is a lot of anger among the people,” one of the police officials said.
The report quoted data gathered by local civil society groups, who said around 160 civilians were killed last year. The deaths also included 267 members of armed groups and 159 security forces personnel.
It said the Home Ministry published lower figures of 37 civilians, 238 militants and 86 security forces personnel killed.
The report notes that in Kashmir, accountability for violations committed by members of the Indian security forces remains virtually non-existent.
“Arbitrary detention and so-called cordon and search operations leading to a range of human rights violations continue to be deeply problematic, as do the special legal regimes applying to Kashmir,” it said.
NSA Doval in Kashmir
Meanwhile, All India Radio on Wednesday released visuals of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval having lunch with locals, with closed shops in the backdrop, at an undisclosed locality. He was heard saying in the video that once the new administration is set up, things will change.
AIR said Doval arrived in Kashmir on Tuesday to reach out to the local population in the Valley as a confidence-building measure.
One dead since the abrogation of Article 370
On Wednesday, HuffPost India reported that a 17-year-old boy named Osaib Altaf had died in Srinagar’s Palpora area on Monday. The boy was among a group of boys who jumped into a river after being cornered by CRPF personnel on a bridge. While the others were rescued by labourers nearby, Altaf drowned.
PTI’s report on Wednesday quoted officials to say one person was killed in Noorbagh locality. Palpora is in Noorbagh. Officials told PTI that a group of youngsters had gathered in the area and were chased by CRPF personnel because of confusion over curfew. One of the youths jumped into the Jhelum river to escape the heavily-armed paramilitary forces but drowned. There was a protest in the locality but it ended after a cane charging in which six people were injured, they said.
An India Today report, published late Wednesday night, said the person who drowned was a “protestor”. Neither reports referred to Osaib Altaf by name.
500 political workers and leaders detained
Over 500 important political workers and leaders, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have been detained in Jammu and Kashmir since the Centre decided to revoke provisions of Article 370 and divide the state to two union territories, officials told news agency PTI.
While All India Radio reported on the arrests without details, the officials told PTI that activists across the political spectrum have been detained in Srinagar as well as other parts of the valley.
PTI quoted latest reports to say about 560 such workers have been lodged in makeshift detention centres in Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre in Srinagar and other such centres in Baramulla and Gurez.
Former chief ministers Omar Abdullah of the National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP have been detained at Hari Niwas on Gupkar road, it said.
Reuters quoted a police officer as saying 300 political leaders have been detained. Two local leaders from the National Conference, a major regional party, also said that at least 100 politicians – including former state ministers and legislators – had been detained. They did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the information, Reuters said.
Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, was arrested on Tuesday for a few hours, but has since been detained at his home, a statement from his office said.