Govt says unprovoked stone-pelting in Kashmir, but forces didn’t retaliate

stone-pelting, protests, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, restrictions, Article 370, Constitution, special status, scrap, Centre, Home Ministry, The Federal, English news website
The security clampdown is imposed after the Union government on August 5 stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated it into Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Photo: PTI.

The Home Ministry on Tuesday (August 13) said that “miscreants” resorted to unprovoked stone-pelting against security personnel at the outskirts of Srinagar on August 9, leading to “widespread unrest”, but no bullet was fired against the protesters.

Earlier, the government had refuted video reports by BBC showing protests and gun firing in the Soura area of the city amidst government-imposed restrictions on communications and movement of people, following the abrogation of special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.

Also read: SC refuses to pass order on lifting of restrictions in J&K

“Stories in media on a said incident in Soura region of #Srinagar. On 09/08, miscreants mingled with people returning home after prayers at a local mosque. They resorted to unprovoked stone-pelting against law enforcement forces to cause widespread unrest (sic),” a home ministry spokesperson said in one of a series of tweets.

The law-enforcement authorities showed restraint and tried to maintain law and order, she said. “It is reiterated that no bullets have been fired in #JammuAndKashmir since the development related to #Article370,” the spokesperson said.

The security clampdown is imposed after the Union government on August 5 stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated it into Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

On August 10, the ministry had said that there have been a few stray protests in the Kashmir Valley in the past few days against the scrapping of special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and none of these involved a crowd of more than 20 people.

Restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir to be eased in a phased manner

Now, the restrictions imposed on people’s movement and communication links in Jammu and Kashmir are being eased out in a phased manner, while the highway connecting Jammu with Srinagar is functioning normally, a Home Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“The restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir are being eased out in a phased manner in the Valley and the situation in the Jammu division has been restored after assessment by relevant local authorities,” the spokesperson said.

A top government official told PTI that restrictions in the Kashmir Valley were put in place to avoid loss of human lives, and will only be removed after an assessment by local authorities.

Political leaders like former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who were arrested as a “preventive measure”, will also be released by the J&K administration only after assessing the ground situation, the official added.

Steps have been taken so that there is minimum inconvenience to people, that include ease of travel to hospitals, opening of markets and distribution of food at doorsteps, the official asserted. “The whole effort is to bring normalcy as early as possible. However, any law and order decision should be best left to the local administration,” the official said.

Depending on phone booths for communication

There has been a virtual communications blackout in the Valley with no phones and no internet connections since the early hours of August 5. People queued up at the 300 phone booths set up by the administration and had to wait for up to two hours before they could speak to their dear ones for a few minutes.

Security officials said communication links had to be snapped as a preventive measure.

“This became a tool for spreading all kinds of rumours and misreporting of incidents. Recently, an international channel reported that firing took place last Friday in outskirts of the city. No bullet was fired. Had mobiles been there, this kind of misreporting would have set other parts of the Valley on fire,” said a senior police officer on condition of anonymity.

However, there is grudging admission among some officials that phone lines have paralysed life and many people are suffering.

News channels have also been discontinued on cable networks. The restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir on peoples movement and communication may continue for some more days.

(With agencies’ inputs)