Internet slowed; roads blocked; trains suspended; re-opening of schools, exams of KU, KAS postponed; JKLF chief arrested
Srinagar: Fear of public anger against the killing of civilians by army soldiers in Shopian, where two more bodies were recovered on Monday morning, raising the death toll to 6 – four civilians and two local militants – made the Jammu & Kashmir government take a series of “precautionary measures” on Monday. It closed all colleges and schools till March 7, postponed all exams of Kashmir University scheduled on March 6 and 7, reduced mobile internet speed in all districts of Kashmir Valley, shut down internet in all areas of Shopian and Pulwama districts, suspended train services, clamped restrictions under Section 144 in several areas, deployed large number of government troops on roads, and arrested or detained several pro-freedom leaders and activists, including Yasin Malik, who was arrested when he tried to lead a protest march in the heart of Srinagar.
The people, meanwhile, observed a complete shutdown on the call of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) to protest the killings in Shopian. There were reports of some clashes in old Srinagar and in areas of Bandipora and Budgam, where youths pelted government troops with stones and had to be chased away with teargas shelling.
In Srinagar, government forces installed road blocks on several roads, including at Gojwari, Rajouri Kadal, Safa Kadal, Khanyar, Nowhatta and Rainawari. Restrictions under Section 144 CrPC were imposed in areas under seven police stations in the downtown. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik was arrested by police at Budshah Chowk bridge when he defied house detention and tried to march towards Lal Chowk. According to eyewitnesses, as soon as Malik reached Budshah Chowk, police arrested him and whisked him away in a police gypsy. He was later shifted to Central Jail Srinagar.
A JKLF spokesman said that police used brutal force against JKLF leaders and activists who held a protest at Budshah Chowk after marching from Maisuma, where Yasin Malik lives.
A spokesman for the JRL informed that police arrested two of their members, Mohammad Ashraf Laya and Umer Adul Dar, from their respective residences late at night. “Laya was arrested at 10:30pm and Dar at 12:30am,” the spokesman said. “(Ashraf) Seharie is already under house arrest,” he added.
As per reports, police continue to be deployed in strength around the residences of JRL leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik.
Reports said that on various roads connecting major villages, police and other government forces have erected checkpoints and concertina wire barricades.
In north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, all shops and business establishments remained closed and no commercial traffic plied on the roads. Reports said that clashes and stone-pelting incidents happened at two places, at Papchan and Gulshan Chowk areas, with youths engaging government forces in pitched battles on the streets. The police, however, denied that any clashes or stone-pelting happened in the district.
Clashes were also reported in areas of central Kashmir’s Budgam district. Protests were held in areas of Narbal, Chadoora and Kralpora, where youths pelted government forces deployed in their areas with stones. Locals said that the troops fired tear gas shells to disperse the angry youth.
Most shops in north Kashmir areas of Baramulla, Sopore, Pattan, Sangrama, Langate, Handwara, Kupwara, Kralpora, Trehgam, and in other towns were closed throughout the day, though transport was normally plying on the roads.
The government closed down all schools and colleges in the Valley till March 7. Schools were to re-open on Monday after winter vacations, but will now stay closed at least till Wednesday.
The state public service commission had earlier cancelled exams for the Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) that were scheduled on Monday.
In view of concerns expressed by students, class work at Kashmir University was also suspended on March 6, Tuesday. Further, all exams scheduled on March 6 and 7 were indefinitely postponed. “Fresh dates for the deferred examinations shall be notified separately, later,” the varsity’s Public Relations office said.
“JKBOSE (Board of School Education) has also decided to postpone all exams which were scheduled up to Wednesday,” said an official in the board. He said fresh dates for the exams will be announced separately, later.
Train services across the Valley were suspended and so was internet since Monday evening in Shopian and Pulwama districts. The authorities on Monday reduced mobile internet speed in the rest of Kashmir Valley.
Official sources said that following a communication by police, cellular companies reduced high-speed mobile internet (4G/3G) to 128kbps (2G) in all other districts of Kashmir Valley with immediate effect on Monday.