Kashmir peaceful as Narayanan arrives

August 20th, 2008 - 1:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 20 (IANS) National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan arrived here early Wednesday as the Kashmir Valley remained calm for a second straight day after weeks of street protests. Narayanan and Intelligence Bureau director A.C. Haldar flew into the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir with senior home ministry officials for a day-long visit to the valley.

The trip, meant to assess the situation, comes in the wake of the bitter Amarnath land row that has created an unprecedented communal divide in the country’s only Muslim-majority state.

Muslim separatists fighting Indian rule in the valley had this week organised a huge rally in Srinagar seeking UN intervention to resolve the more than 60-year-old Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, schools, shops and offices conducted routine business Tuesday and the valley limped to normalcy after days of shutdowns and protests against an alleged “economic blockade” by demonstrators in the Hindu majority Jammu region.

Markets, government offices, banks and business establishments were also open in the valley. Long queues were seen outside ATMs.

On Aug 11, at least five people, including a senior leader of Jammu and Kashmir’s moderate Hurriyat faction, were killed in clashes with security forces as they marched towards the Line of Control (LoC) in Baramulla district against the “economic blockade”.

Since then, tensions have escalated leading to people defying curfew and the police firing at protesters in several places.

While 17 more people in the Kashmir Valley were also killed, the death toll in the entire state in the waves of protests and counter-protests now stands around 40.

The dispute is over 40 hectares of land in the valley the authorities awarded to a board managing the annual pilgrimage to the Hindu shrine of Amarnath.

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