Situation ‘improves’ in curfew bound Kashmir: authorities (Lead)

August 30th, 2008 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 30 (IANS) With an improvement in the overall law and order situation in the Kashmir valley, curfew was relaxed for eight hours Saturday in most areas of this summer capital Saturday while it was completely lifted in south Kashmir.Authorities had originally planned a two-hour curfew relaxation in all the police station areas of Srinagar.

“As the situation showed marked improvement in these areas, we extended the curfew relaxation periods in all city police station areas to eight hours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” a police officer said.

“In areas under Khanyar and Rainawari police stations where curfew had not been relaxed earlier in the day, we relaxed it from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“The situation remained peaceful during the relaxation period except an incident of stone pelting in Rajouri Kadal area (of the old city) which was brought under control by a mild baton charge,” the officer said.

Curfew was lifted from the south Kashmir Kulgam and Shopian districts while it was relaxed for longer periods in Ganderbal, Badgam, and Bandipora and Kupwara districts.

A valley-wide curfew was imposed here since early Sunday in the wake of the arrest of three senior separatist leaders including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik.

The separatists had called for a march to city centre Lal Chowk Monday.

Authorities have also arrested another senior separatist leader, Shabir Ahmad Shah, who had been evading arrest by going underground.

Shah was arrested Friday from the uptown Rawalpora area of the city.

With the gradual improvement in the law and order situation, the authorities here are taking a high level review of the situation where a decision would be taken about lifting curfew restrictions completely from those districts of the valley where it was not now required.

Jammu and Kashmir has been witnessing widespread violent protests for more than two and a half months now. The protests were triggered by a dispute over 40 hectares of forest land allotted to the Hindu Amarnath shrine board. The land transfer was later cancelled.

When the land allotment decision was reversed July 1 following a Muslim backlash in the valley, Hindus in the Jammu region staged demonstrations, blocking the movement of goods to the valley for some days.

More than 47 people have died, mostly in police and paramilitary firing, in the turmoil, which has been stoked both by separatist leaders in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and Hindu groups in Jammu.

The unrest also breathed life into the separatist movement in Kashmir, which witnessed huge pro-freedom rallies in the last fortnight.

Meanwhile, about 20 religious and social groups as well as organisations of traders and intellectuals have urged the central and state governments and militants to implement a comprehensive ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir.

In a statement, they requested the Muzaffarabad-based conglomerate of guerrillas, the United Jehad Council (UJC), to halt their actions in civilian areas.

“The minorities should not be treated as cannon fodder to carry out the agenda of vested interests in sabotaging the peoples’ movement of Kashmir,” the statement said.

The signatories to the statement include Muhammad Bashiruddin Ahmed, head Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir and in charge of religious affairs; Mirwaiz Molvi Riyaz Ahmed Hamdani of the Islamic Study Circle and Aga Syed Hassan Al Moosvi, prominent Shia leader and president of Anjuman Sharie Shiyaan.

The Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, Chamber of Commerce and Industries Kashmir, Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owner’s Federation, Valley Citizens Council, Kashmir Traders Federation, Kashmir University Teachers Association and the Kashmir Thinker’s Guild are among some of the organisations whose members signed the petition.

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