With radicals out of J&K, stone-pelting steeply drops
By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, Aug 13 (IANS) As security agencies rounded up separatist and radical trouble makers from the Kashmir Valley, incidents of stone pelting have drastically fallen despite escalating tensions between India and Pakistan over the axing of Article 370. In the past 48 hours, the Valley has been more or less calm barring few sporadic incidents of stone-pelting in Soura and downtown areas of Srinagar.
In a security exercise stretching over a couple of months, Jammu and Kashmir's Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh and his team of handpicked officers identified scores of separatist and key radical leaders who were instrumental in orchestrating stone-pelting incidents in the Valley.
"In a swift move, we picked up these pro-Pakistani radical elements from their dens on (and after) August 5 and shifted them out of the state to various central jails in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and other northern states," said a senior IPS officer of the Jammu and Kashmir cadre.
"At least a month in advance, we visited jails in Agra, Bareilly, Lucknow and other places and chalked out an effective plan to raid, arrest and shift these elements out of the Valley."
According to the officer, an exhaustive list of radical elements, trouble makers and agents of Pakistan was prepared by the state with the help of Central agencies.
"For instance, Qasim Fakhtoo, husband of Asiya Andrabi and the mastermind behind launching violent stone-pelting attacks, was shifted with his key aides outside the state. Another potential trouble maker, Mian Qayoom, President of the J&K Bar Association and kingpin of stone pelter groups, was airlifted from Srinagar to an Agra prison. This 'isolation strategy' has really made the change and worked for us," he added.
There is mild relaxation of curfew in Srinagar during the evening, mostly between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. when residents are allowed to pick grocery items.
Vegetable and fruit kiosks are also allowed to open in the evening. However, restrictions were stricter in downtown localities while on the outskirts of the state capital grocery shops were mostly open during day time.
Hospitals, ambulances and emergency services are functioning smoothly. At the Lal Ded Maternity Hospital, Wazirbagh, relatives are being freely allowed to meet the patients.
At the Badami Bagh children hospital, parents are seen moving in and out during the day.
One of the doctors told IANS: "Medicines, drugs and other pharmacy items were stored in advance. Still, there is no dearth of medicines as chemist shops are allowed to function."
The administration is also lenient with people who are visiting hospitals. During the curfew, security forces allow people and patients to move to hospitals after checking their ID cards.
As the curfew seems to continue for an indefinite period, the mood of the people is a bit tense as they are worried about the schooling of their wards.
Business, especially tourism, has also been hit hard. Local residents are sceptical of getting government jobs due to the scrapping of special status to the state.
On Saturday, Governor Satya Pal Malik assured the residents that preference will be given to the domicile in government jobs. Amid such anxiety, property dealer appears to be optimistic.
They feel that scrapping of Article 370 will now appreciate rates of property.
"The investment will certainly come. I hope the property rates will go up. We will have more buyers and this means more money for the land," said Ghulam Hasan Bhatt, a leading property dealer in Srinagar.
As of now, the Valley is calm. But the one big regret in seems to be the snapping of all phone lines.
Local residents are requesting authorities to restore communication as it was seriously affecting their daily life.
Even during Eid on Monday, a majority of Kashmiris failed to greet their distant relatives and friends. Eid for the first time here was limited to one's own home and street.