Curfew in Kashmir Valley, separatist activists arrested (Lead)

August 24th, 2008 - 12:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 24 (IANS) Indefinite curfew was imposed in the Kashmir Valley early Sunday and several separatist leaders were placed under house arrest and activists arrested ahead of their proposed march to the city centre Monday. Ayaz Akbar, spokesman of the hardline Hurriyat group led by Syed Ali Geelani, was among the about two dozen separatist activists detained by the police in the morning.

Separatist leaders including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Shabir Ahmad Shah and Muhammad Yasin Malik have, meanwhile, been placed under house arrest, official sources said. Unlike such restrictions in the past, no visitors would be allowed to their houses, the sources added.

“The curfew enforcing machinery has been directed to be firm without using unnecessary force,” a police official told IANS here.

Curfew was clamped in all 10 districts of the Valley in the morning. Additional police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were moved in late Saturday and all major cities and towns have been sealed off, officials said.

In the state’s summer capital Srinagar, CRPF and police contingents were first deployed in the old city area, where agitating mobs have destroyed paramilitary pickets and bunkers in the last 10 days.

“We have sufficient strength of CRPF to assist the local police, but we are bringing in additional reinforcements,” an official said.

After a massive show of strength Friday in which tens of thousands of Kashmiris marched to the Eidgah lawns here to offer prayers, separatist leaders had called for a march to the city centre Lal Chowk Monday.

Speaking to some media persons on phone from his Nigeen residence, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said the march to Lal Chowk would be undertaken by the people despite curfew restrictions.

A few cameramen working for local news channels alleged they were roughed up by CRPF jawans in Rambagh area here.

According to reports reaching here from south Kashmir’s Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama districts, the administration has given strict instructions to ensure that violators of the prohibitory orders are dealt with strictly.

Curfew was also clamped in the central district of Badgam, and Baramulla, Ganderbal, Kupwara and Bandipora districts in the north.

Barring a three-day spell of normalcy earlier this week, life remained out of gear in the Valley for the last fortnight with the protests and violence spearheaded by the separatists.

The present agitation began against the allotment of 40 hectares of forest land to the Hindu shrine board that manages the affairs of the two-month long annual pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

The “economic blockade” of the Jammu-Srinagar highway and the heavy losses incurred by the local fruit industry have catapulted the earlier protests into a full fledged secessionist campaign with tens of thousands of locals responding to the calls of separatist leaders.

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