Army stages flag march in curfew-hit Srinagar


Prime VIP
SRINAGAR: The Army on Wednesday staged flag marches in tension-ridden Srinagar as curfew was strictly enforced in the city and other places in the Kashmir Valley, which witnessed a fresh spate of clashes between protestors and security forces that had left three people dead.

Requisitioned by the state authorities late last night, the Army moved in 17 columns (about 1,700 personnel) into various parts of the city at the crack of dawn.

Srinagar, which was bustling with tourists before the trouble started, looked like a lifeless city with empty streets, closed shops and deserted shikaras amid the heavy presence of security forces.

The state government had sought help of the Army in the wake of spiralling protests in the city.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over phone and briefed him on the law and order situation in the Valley.

Omar apprised the Prime Minister about the steps being taken in restoring normalcy which included cracking down on mischief-makers and miscreants, sources said.

The Chief Minister also spoke twice to Home Minister P Chidambaram and also to Defence Minister A K Antony about the developments.

Union Home Secretary G K Pillai, who flew in here from Delhi along with Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen A M Verma to take stock of the situation after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, met the Chief Minister and reviewed the overall law and order situation.

Pillai assured the Chief Minister of complete support of the Centre in maintaining peace in the Valley. The Home Secretary also chaired a meeting of officials of CRPF, Army and State Police and Intelligence Bureau.

The Kashmir situation was discussed at the CCS meeting chaired by the Prime Minister. It was decided that Army would be deployed only in the "periphery" and not in the congested areas of Kashmir.

The CCS favoured "maximum crackdown" on miscreants who had contributed to the deterioration of the current situation in the valley.

It was also made clear that army has been deployed in Srinagar for "deterrent effect" and the decision to place it in specific areas would be done by the civil administration.

In the afternoon, the state police arrested President of Kashmir Bar Association Mian Qayoom under the stringent Public Safety Act.

Curfew was also in force in Anantnag, Pampore, Pulwama and Kulgam in South Kashmir and Kupwara and Bandipore in North Kashmir. Restrictions have also been imposed in Sopore and Baramulla where the Army staged flag marches.

The Army was called out in Srinagar late last night to enforce the curfew, keeping in view the non-availability of adequate number of police personnel, many of whom have been deployed for Amarnath Yatra and counter-insurgency operations, official sources said.