R-Day passes off peacefully in Kashmir ValleyJanuary 26th, 2009 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS
Srinagar, Jan 26 (IANS) Republic Day celebrations passed off peacefully in the Kashmir Valley Monday, with 300-400 people turning out to witness the parade here defying a boycott call from Muslim separatists. Similar events also took place elsewhere in the valley.Officials said the gathering at the Bakhshi Stadium here was unprecedented. Ever since militancy erupted in 1990, people began staying away from Republic Day and Independence Day functions.
At the stadium, school children and contingents of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and those of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force and Indo-Tibetan Border Police marched braving the winter chill.
School students dressed in their colourful best presented cultural programmes.
Jammu and Kashmir Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammed Sagar unfurled the national flag and took salute at the parade.
A large number of dignitaries, including National Conference president and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, were present at the function.
Sagar, a senior National Conference leader, urged Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to restart the stalled peace process.
“The process of peace and reconciliation between India and Pakistan has a direct bearing on the lives of the people in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said in his speech.
“We appeal to the prime minister to restart the peace process between the two countries so that distances between them are narrowed down,” Sagar said.
The minister said the December assembly elections in the state had been appreciated by everybody in the world and even the militants had started talking in terms of negotiated resolution of their problems.
“This is a big change as everybody is fed up with violence. The young and dynamic leadership of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah shall ensure that the problems of the people are addressed and justice is done to every section of the people in the state.”
The event was held under tight security, with equipment meant to jam electronic devices installed in a bid to prevent remote controlled explosions.
Republic Day functions in other towns of the Kashmir Valley also took place peacefully, including in Ganderbal, Baramulla, Bandipora, Kupwara, Badgam, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag.
The two faction of the separatist Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Geelani had called for a protest shutdown Monday.
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