On the eve of Eid, even as the administration listed several measures taken to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), curfew was re-imposed in Srinagar on Sunday afternoon.
Prohibitory orders were relaxed on Friday for the first time since the security lockdown, following the government’s decision to revoke the state’s special status and bifurcate it into two Union Territories.
Crucial week in the Valley
Keeping banks open to door delivery of essential items, the government says these will bring normalcy back in the Valley. But strict curbs on movement and communication are still in place. Eid and August 15 will test how the lockdown plays out given the distrust on the ground.
On Sunday morning, there was some movement of private vehicles and vendors set up bakery stalls along the streets of Srinagar city. Queues could be seen outside the ATMs that were working.
But by afternoon, J&K Police vehicles were seen driving around parts of Srinagar, announcing that curfew had been re-imposed, and asking people to return home. “Apne gharun main wapis jayein. Curfew doobara se nafiz huwa hai (Go back to your homes, curfew has been re-imposed),” they announced.
There was no official statement on why the restrictions were back in place.
Huge deployment of security forces, concertina wires and barricades were back on the roads and public movement was curbed. At several places, police asked vendors to close their stalls and return home.
“We have received orders from senior officers to impose curfew again. No reason has been given. We are only implementing their order,” a policeman told a resident at Jehangir Chowk.
A senior police officer told The Indian Express that Eid prayers may not be allowed at Jamia Masjid and Eidgah, which see the biggest Eid gatherings in the Valley. “We have made plans to deploy security forces in the Valley on Monday. We are keeping our fingers crossed,” said the officer.
“I am conscious of the fact (that) it needs a lot more for a normal and enjoyable Eid. We are trying to reduce inconveniences and ease facilities. Just had an elaborate meeting with Imams for prayer arrangements. Visited venues,” tweeted Shahid Choudhary, District Magistrate, Srinagar.
There are fears that large gatherings could trigger protests, after some incidents of stone-pelting were reported after the Friday prayers.
J&K Director General of Police Dilbag Singh told Reuters that 1,000-1,500 people were returning from praying at mosques on Friday when “some miscreants” started pelting stones at security officials. “It was a reaction to stone-pelting by these miscreants that one or two rounds of pump-action gun was fired,” Singh said, adding that four to five men suffered injuries. Around 300 local leaders had been detained, and some of them had been taken out of Kashmir, he said.
In Pir Panjal and Chenab Valley regions of Jammu division, the government announced a six-hour curfew relaxation on Sunday. Sources said day curfew was lifted in Rajouri, Kishtwar and Doda districts, as well as Banihal sub-district. In Poonch district, curfew was relaxed from 10 am to 4 pm.
However, cellphone services, including mobile Internet, remained suspended in the curfew-bound areas. At other places, including Udhampur, Reasi, Jammu, Samba, Kathua and parts of Rajouri district, only mobile Internet was suspended.
No untoward incident was reported during the relaxation of curfew. However, on Saturday night, two vehicles were set ablaze in Ari village of Poonch district.
In Jammu’s Bhatindi and Talab Khatikan areas, shops remained closed a day ahead of Eid. A few traders who had brought sheep for sale could not find many buyers. Abdul Qayoom, who had got 50 sheep from Udhampur district’s Latti area, said he could sell only 15 in the last three days. “This time, we may not even be able to cover the transportation cost,” he said.
Yasir Ahmed of Nagrota said he sold 100 sheep last year, but could manage to sell only 30 this time.
Meanwhile, sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the government was assessing the situation and would gradually lift restrictions.
Listing the measures being taken to restore normalcy, the J&K administration, in a statement, said: “Treasuries and banks are being made functional during this period even on holidays. ATMs are functioning smoothly, and it has been ensured that the cash is replenished on regular basis and people are drawing cash as and when required… Salary of all the employees and wages of DRWs/ casual labourers etc. are being released… Payments for developmental works are also being cleared on priority.”
It said mobile vans have been deployed for door-to-door delivery of vegetables, LPG cylinders, poultry and eggs, and “six mandies/ markets” have been established in Srinagar city. “Further, 2.5 lac sheep on hooves are available for public for Eid-ul-Azha sacrifice. In rest of the districts, the District Magistrates have made elaborate arrangements for the forthcoming Eid-ul-Azha,” the statement said.
Ration ‘ghats’ in every district have started functioning to supply groceries. Of the 3,697 ration ‘ghats’ in Kashmir division, 3,557 have been made operational to provide ration to the general public, it said.
“Wheat has been stocked to suffice for 65 days, rice for 55 days, mutton for 17 days, poultry for 1 month, kerosene oil for 35 days, LPG for 1 month, High Speed Diesel (HSD) and MS for 28 days. All bakery/ poultry/ mutton shops are open today and long queues were seen outside these shops,” the statement said.
As many as 300 special telephone booths are being established to help the public get in touch with their relatives, it said.
It said special arrangements have been made for the safe return of Hajis from Saudi Arabia, for which flights will commence on August 18. All deputy commissioners have nominated nodal officers to be stationed at the airport from August 18.
The administration said all health institutions in Kashmir division were functioning fully, with sufficient staff as well as medicine stock. Flights are operating as per schedule and air tickets are being treated as movement passes, it said.
Meanwhile, with its official helpline 14111 (called madadgar) not accessible in Srinagar due to the restrictions, the CRPF has notified a new number (9469793260) for assistance and updates on the situation. The helpline is also making available active phone lines of police stations across Kashmir.
— With DEEPTIMAN TIWARY in New Delhi