Kashmir remains incommunicado amid new restrictions

An Indian security personnel stands guard on a deserted road during restrictions after scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the Indian government, in Srinagar. (Reuters Photo)

Kashmir continued to remain incommunicado for the 19th consecutive day on Friday with restrictions re-imposed in various parts of Srinagar city and elsewhere to thwart protests after Friday congregational prayers.

This morning the administration re-imposed curfew-like restrictions in most parts of Srinagar with heavy deployment of security forces continuing to remain in place at the sensitive locations across Kashmir. There were reports of mild clashes between youth and security forces in some parts of the city.

Youth fought pitched battles with the security forces in parts of old city and other areas of Srinagar, eyewitnesses said. The forces fired tear smoke canisters to disperse the protesters. Elderly people, including those with chest and heart ailments, complain of severe suffocation due to the thick smoke cover that fills the air due to firing of tear gas shells.

No Friday congregational prayers were allowed at historic Jamia Masjid in old city for the third consecutive week. Similar curbs were also made at other bigger mosques in Srinagar and elsewhere. However, Friday prayers were offered in smaller mosques across the city and the Valley, reports said.

The communication clampdown, which was imposed on August 4 night, continues to remain in force with mobile connectivity and internet services snapped. On August 17, authorities had restored landline numbers in some areas of the city. However, reports said, in most of these areas, the landlines have again gone silent. 

Authorities are tightlipped over restoration of mobile and internet connectivity and for the first time in the last two weeks, the government didn’t brief media persons about the prevailing situation on Thursday. 

Top government officials had been addressing media on daily basis to share the details about the prevailing situation in the State. In the first week of restrictions and shutdown, the government was addressing media twice in a day and later once in a day before it was stopped from Thursday.

Sources said the decision not to hold the presser was taken in the backdrop of journalists asking tough questions to the officials since Monday when the government announced that primary schools have been reopened and the attendance of students was picking up. The government has directed security agencies not to lower the guard and maintain highest level of alertness, they said.

Governor Satya Pal Malik, who reviewed law and order situation in the state, during a high level meeting at Raj Bhavan on Thursday evening, emphasized the need for constant alertness, preparedness and synergy among various agencies to enable dealing with emerging situation in a coordinated and effective manner.

The valley has come to a grinding halt due to restrictions, shutdown and communication blockade since August 5 when New Delhi scrapped Article 370 and reorganized Jammu and Kashmir state into two union territories. Hundreds of people, including former chief minister Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, continue to remain in custody with reports of more arrests by the police pouring in from several areas of Kashmir.

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