Army troops staged a flag march in Srinagar for the first time in two decades on Wednesday in an effort to quell anti-India protests sparked by the killings of at least 14 civilians in police firing this summer.
Four persons were shot dead by police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel on Tuesday — one of them a woman bystander — triggering protests that continued despite the imposition of curfew at 4 p.m.
The decision to commit the Army in Srinagar was taken after a late-night discussion between Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
“We have staged a flag march on one of the key roads in Srinagar and we are ready to assist the State government whenever and wherever required” Army spokesman Colonel J.S. Brar said.
Troops are also reported to have been placed on standby in the north Kashmir towns of Baramulla and Sopore.
Protesters in some Srinagar neighbourhoods, including Batmaloo, Tengpora, Mehjoor Nagar and Natipora, staged anti-India demonstrations despite news of the deployment of the Army. Mosque public address systems were used to urge local residents to join the protests. The protests were, however, quelled by police.
Never before had the Army been called in to assist authorities in securing peace in Srinagar. Police in the city were assisted by the Border Security Force until 2006, after which it was replaced by the Central Reserve Police Force.
The State government has also continued a crackdown on figures linked to hardline secessionist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Mian Abdul Qayoom, a key functionary of the group and president of the Kashmir Bar Association, was arrested in a midnight raid on his home Tuesday.
“The arrest is aimed at deterring and stopping the lawyers and the intellectuals of Kashmir from taking part in the ongoing Quit Kashmir campaign,” KBA general secretary G.N. Shaheen told TheHindu.