Yasin Malik arrested, BJP activists detained at Lal Chowk

Amid a virtual lockdown of Srinagar, Republic Day celebrations passed off peacefully throughout the Kashmir Valley. Police arrested Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik and 17 supporters, and detained seven Bharatiya Janata Party activists.

With the move by the BJP to culminate its Ekta Yatra by hoisting the tricolour at Lal Chowk here, and the counter-move by the JKLF to hoist its own flag, authorities sealed the city centre from all sides and did not allow even mediapersons to enter the area.

Barricades with sharp concertina wire were erected on Tuesday evening and all entry routes to Lal Chowk sealed. The clock tower was the main point of attraction for the BJP and the JKLF to show their strength.

Even as Mr. Malik, Hurriyat leader Bilal Lone, and 16 others appeared from a corner at Lal Chowk chanting pro-freedom slogans, the police stopped them and bundled them into their vehicles. Mr. Malik and others had been hiding in the area.

Police also detained seven BJP activists who tried to break the cordon with the tricolour in their hands. They were severely thrashed and taken to the police station.

Only the local unit of the CRPF stationed at Lal Chowk unfurled the tricolour, which officials said was a routine practice.

Official functions at Jammu, Srinagar and other district headquarters passed off peacefully. Governor N.N. Vohra and Finance Minister A.R. Rather unfurled the flag at Jammu and Srinagar respectively. Without naming the BJP, Mr. Rather said that some parties were trying to divide the country on communal lines, “but the people have given them a befitting reply by not paying heed to their calls.” Sources said that the tricolour was hoisted at around 450 places across the Kashmir division.