August 15: Curfew-Like Restrictions in Old City; Separatists Under House Detention

Riyaz Ul Khaliq

SRINAGAR

KL Images: Bilal Bahadur
KL Images: Bilal Bahadur

As Pakistan is observing its 69th Independence Day today (Friday), the authorities have put in restrictions in seven police stations constituting Srinagar’s Old City.

Fearing waiving of Pakistan flags in city, the district administration Thursday late evening ordered police to take “extra measures” in Srinagar.

While run up to August 15 function finally culminated on August 13 as Divisional Commissioner inspected ‘Full-Dress’ rehearsal in Bakhshi stadium here, police and paramilitary forces were seen frisking commuters and checking vehicles.

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Reports and locals from Old City said that there is very thin movement of vehicles.

“It is an enforced shutdown in the area,” a local said. “There are severe restrictions in place; we are not being allowed to move out of our homes,” a local said.

Covering the restrictions put in place in Srinagar parts, photo journalists said that forces allegedly made work harder for them.

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“We were not allowed to discharge our professional task freely. Forces abused us,” a photo journalist said. “We had to take alternate routes and lanes to reach Nowhatta chowk.”

The deployment of forces in and around Nowhatta apparently seems barring people from offering Friday congregational Nimaz in historic Jamia Masjid.

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A local from Safakadal area said that drop-gates, barricades and concertina wires have been put in place and no movement of vehicles is being seen in the area.

Extra deployment of forces has been made as the militant strikes have ‘increased’ in past few weeks, majorly in South Kashmir. However, police said that there is no perceptible threat on August 15 and all measures have been put in place to tackle any problem.

Roads leading to Bakhshi stadium, where August 15 function is being held, are witnessing huge deployment of forces while barricades have been set up and people are being searched before letting them go.

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The authorities also placed Hurriyat leaders under house detention.

Octogenarian Syed Ali Geelani is under house detention since he returned from New Delhi while Mirwaiz Umar was detained at his home Thursday late in the evening.

Hurriyat (g) spokesperson, Ayaz Akbar who himself has been detained in his house said, “Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai has been placed under house arrest early Friday while police had raided houses of Altaf Shah and Raja Me’raj Ud Din but the duo was not present in their homes.” Akbar added, “Hakeem Rashid and around 150 of Hurriyat activists have been arrested in Srinagar.”

JKLF chairperson Muhammad Yasin Malik has been detained in Kothibagh police station since Wednesday when he was detained on way to Pulwama. Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan too have been detained in their homes.

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