Local newspapers and cable television networks resumed business and 185 of the 252 ATMs operated on Wednesday after a four-day freeze, amid indications of the Kashmir Valley returning to normal.
With no major incident of violence anywhere, authorities relaxed curfew for varying durations in all 10 districts, excluding the areas falling under the jurisdiction of five hypersensitive police stations in downtown Srinagar and Baramulla.
It was the fifth consecutive day of curfew, and shutdown called by separatists over the execution of Afzal Guru. Some shops were seen open and even skeleton transport services were operated.
Authoritative sources said sporadic, low-intensity clashes between the police and the protesters took place at nearly 30 spots in the Valley. Some15-25 men, including police and paramilitary personnel, were believed to have sustained injuries.
The sources said a Deputy Superintendent of Police was among the four personnel injured during a clash at Lazbal in Anantnag district. A head constable of the J&K Police was injured in stone pelting at Jamalata in downtown Srinagar. Nearly a dozen civilians were among the injured in these clashes, which mostly occurred when the paramilitary forces were withdrawing deployments in the evening.
When stone-throwing crowds attacked a cash transportation van of Jammu and Kashmir Bank at Wusan in Ganderbal area, security guards opened fire and they dispersed.
However, the situation appeared different from what it was in the weeks of turmoil during the 2008 and 2010 demonstrations, in which over a hundred protesters and arsonists died and hundreds sustained injuries. This time around, no civilian vehicles, ambulances or government properties were attacked by the crowds, which targeted only some police vehicles. Motorcades of two Deputy Commissioners and a Minister were also attacked in the last three days.
But the prevailing calm would be put to the test when curfew is lifted completely and the separatist leaders are granted freedom of movement. Almost all of them have been forced to remain confined to their residences. Among the top brass, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq are allegedly under “house arrest” in New Delhi and Yasin Malik is on a tour in Pakistan.
Authorities are apprehensive of violence on Friday. “If there is no violence on Friday, we will lift day curfew fully”, a senior police official said. People at large looked “hurt and outraged” over Afzal Guru’s execution but there were no indications of a mass uprising or involvement. “It’s completely different from 2008 and 2010. We are still keeping our fingers crossed,” he said.