Dozens of civilians were injured in clashes with security forces in continuing protests in the Kashmir Valley on Friday as the army was set to be deployed in the restive southern districts.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Panaji that the situation in the valley was “under better control than earlier” and “will be under complete control” in coming days.
The comments came as government sources in Srinagar said that more paramilitary troopers were being sent to the valley and the army was being deployed in south Kashmir, the hub of the ongoing unrest on the streets.
However, the army, which is neither trained in nor equipped with non-lethal weapons, has been told not to get into mob control and react only in “self-defense” if their pickets and camps are attacked by stone-pelting protesters.
The sources said the army would launch a major offensive against militants believed to have crossed over from Pakistan and are fanning trouble in the aftermath of the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. At least 76 persons have been killed and over 12,000 injured in the violent unrest.
Also at Panaji, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said the increased deployment of troops was for anti-terror activities as the “army does not act in internal matters unless asked by the local authority”.
“The local civil administration will have to ask (for) the army there like it happened in Haryana, where the (Jat) agitation took place. When the local administration called the army in, we went there only then and followed the orders of the local administration. We don’t operate anywhere internally on our own,” Parrikar said.
Significantly, Army chief General Dalbir Singh on Friday reviewed the security situation in the valley, especially in the south, defence sources said here. He also visited forward areas along the Line of Control in Kupwara district.
The street agitation, security restrictions, and separatist-called shutdown have disrupted normal life in the valley for 62 days now. Shops, businesses, schools and private and government offices have remained closed since July 9 – a day after Wani’s killing.
The curfew, largely removed since the beginning of this week, was re-imposed on Friday as the authorities feared more violence. But people at various places in Srinagar, south and north Kashmir regions defied the restrictions to march on the streets, shouting anti-government and pro-freedom slogans.
The protesters threw stones at security forces at these places. The forces retaliated with pellet guns, leaving dozens of protesters injured.
The authorities also didn’t allow congregational midday prayers at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid – the largest mosque in Jammu and Kashmir – for the eighth Friday in a row.
Police said curfew was imposed in the old city that houses the mosque to prevent post-Friday prayer stone-pelting protests in the volatile areas around Jamia Masjid.
Police also foiled a scheduled press conference of hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani at his Hyderpora residence.
Geelani later issued a nearly 2,000-word press statement to the media in which he thanked Pakistan and China for their support to Kashmiris “in their fight for the right to self-determination”.
The separatist leader vowed to carry on with the agitation as the “spirit of the struggle for freedom has been seamlessly passed on to the next generation.
“No fight is possible without people willing to sacrifice their lives and livelihoods,” he said, hinting that the shutdown won’t be called off even as the Muslim festival of Eid is being celebrated on Tuesday. (IANS)