Srinagar march: tense authorities weigh options

August 17th, 2008 - 3:23 pm ICT by IANS  


Srinagar, Aug 17 (IANS) Worried that the situation in the Kashmir Valley was “getting out of hand”, authorities are weighing options about whether to disallow Monday’s march by separatists to the headquarters of the United Nations Military Observers’ Group (UNMOG) here. “It is getting out of hand. These marches are like the beginning of 1990 (when militancy had reared its head in the state). Allowing them would set off a chain reaction that would end nowhere,” observed a senior intelligence officer, speaking only on condition of anonymity as his service rules do not allow him to speak to media.

Both the groups of the separatist Hurriyat conference headed by the hardline senior leader, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, have called upon Kashmiris to march to the UNMOG headquarters in Sonawar, in the uptown area of the city, Monday.

“Men, women and children - not a single soul should remain indoors. All of us will march to the headquarters of the United Nations Military Observers Group tomorrow,” Mirwaiz Umer told a massive rally in the saffron-rich south Kashmir town of Pampore Saturday during a condolence meet for Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz. The senior Hurriyat leader was killed in police firing last week while attempting to lead marchers across the Line of Control (LoC).

“Srinagar city alone has a population of 1.2 million. In the old city area the Mirwaiz has a formidable base of supporters. His call would definitely bring out a massive crowd,” said a senior police official here.

In addition to mobilizing marchers from within the city, the Hurriyat is also expecting people from other towns and villages to join the rally.

“A high level security meeting is being held. A firm decision on handling the proposed protests is being taken,” a senior official told IANS.

He also said that there were some “very sensitive offices and installations in the area which could become the targets of miscreants if the rally was allowed”.

Cries of “Azadi” and pro-Pakistan slogans have become audible in the Kashmir Valley in the aftermath of the row over the transfer of a small piece of land to the Amarnath temple trust. Tension in Hindu-dominated Jammu region escalated when the land transfer order was revoked on July 1 following protests in the Muslim-dominated valley.

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