Fearing trouble around Friday’s congregational prayers, authorities have detained over 200 people, mostly youth, and put the Army on high alert in the Kashmir Valley. The curfew imposed after separatists called for four days of mourning and protest over Afzal Guru’s execution remained in force in the Valley for the sixth day on Thursday.
Government officials said some potential mischief-makers had been rounded up as the authorities apprehended organised disturbance around the congregational prayers at certain mosques. They refused to specify the number of detainees.
Highly placed sources, however, disclosed to The Hindu that over 200 people had been taken into custody and detained at different police stations in the past three days. Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call, asking Kashmiris to gather and stage protests at the Friday prayers, prompted the police action.
Sources said some 50 youngsters had been rounded up in Srinagar alone in raids on Wednesday night. With this, the number of detainees in Srinagar had reached nearly 100. Hundred others are believed to have been detained in other areas of the Valley.
Most of the detainees are said to be youths with a history of stone-throwing or organising demonstrations, particularly during the summer turmoil of 2008 and 2010.
Sources said that the men detained under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other laws included 12 separatist activists. However, none of the prominent separatist leaders had been arrested or detained. Almost all those leaders here have been put under “house arrest” and forced to remain indoors.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairmen of the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference, who were in New Delhi last Saturday, have been reportedly made to remain in their residences in the national capital. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Yasin Malik has been in Pakistan since January.
On Thursday, the authorities relaxed curfew in 18 of the 24 police station areas in Srinagar. Officials said there was no violation of curfew or a major clash between the protesters and the police.
They said that a small group of 12 to 15 youths clashed with the police at Bohrikadal, Safakadal and Khanyar and 50 youths at Fatehkadal at the time of lifting the day’s deployment. Curfew was not relaxed in areas under six police stations in Srinagar, besides at eight other major towns in the Valley.