FIVE days into the lockdown in the Valley in the wake of revoking J&K’s special status and its downgrade into a Union Territory, top officials have said the situation should ease in a few days to allow easing of restrictions.
Responding to questions from The Indian Express, K Vijay Kumar, Advisor to Jammu and Kashmir Governor and former CRPF chief, said that there will be “some relaxation” for Friday prayers and a call on security for Eid will be taken on Sunday.
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Excerpts of the interview:
This is Day 5 of the security lockdown in the Valley. Have there been protests, instances of people taking to the streets? How are security personnel enforcing prohibitory orders?
No large scale protests have taken place. There have been a few instances of stone-pelting, mostly restricted to areas around Srinagar city. The forces have been given flexibility to impose prohibitory orders with minimum force and maximum compassion.
Will there be relaxation of orders restricting public movement for Friday prayers and Eid on Monday?
Some relaxation will be permitted for Friday prayers. As for Eid, we will take a final call on Sunday. We would like to encourage people to celebrate Eid in the proper spirit while ensuring minimum disruption to public order.
What happens to a family in case of a medical emergency? With communication networks down, how can they call a doctor or an ambulance?
All medical emergencies are being given all possible assistance and facilitation. In many instances, security forces have used their own vehicles to ferry citizens in need of medical aid.
Most shops are shut and people are unable to reach ATMs, how do people buy provisions?
People are being allowed to move around to get essential supplies. A few shops open in each locality in the evening and that is being permitted provided no crowds gather. Arrangements are being made to ensure adequate stocks of essential commodities. These will be distributed with the assistance of the security forces.
Are travel permits area-specific or do they allow people to travel from one town to another? How long do you think will this restriction be in place?
The passes are given for specific purposes and are not area-specific or route-specific. We would like to restore freedom of movement as soon as possible. It will be done in a phased manner.
When can one expect the phone lines to be restored?
Phone lines are being restored for essential services in a phased manner. In times of emergency people can approach security forces for connecting with their near and dear ones.
Is there any way Kashmiris living outside their state can get news of their families stranded in Kashmir?
Helplines are being set up by the civil administration. As I mentioned, security forces have also been instructed to assist people wherever possible through their own communications network.
What is the situation of vehicular movement? Can Kashmiris returning home from other parts of the country travel to interiors of Kashmir? Are there any transport facilities available for public use?
Vehicular movement is taking place on the National Highway. There is no blanket ban on travel. Public transport is of course affected and that can only be restored gradually.
A family in Srinagar has said their son drowned in Jhelum after being chased by CRPF during a stone pelting incident at Noor Bagh in Srinagar. What is CRPF reaction to the allegation?
I would not like to discuss specific allegations. I am sure that Jammu Kashmir Police and CRPF authorities will look into any complaint against them.
Meanwhile, S M Sahai, Additional Secretary of the National Security Council, the topmost security body under National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, said: “I am optimistic the restrictions would be removed in a few days.” He said there has been no casualty on the ground so far. Speaking during a panel discussion, Sahai said communication lines were cut off to stop misuse of social media to spread misinformation and rumours.
“It is only for days,” he said. Despite Pakistan’s efforts to create trouble in Kashmir, the situation, he said, will improve with the support of the people who have welcomed J&K’s integration with India.