More landlines restored in Valley, but key Srinagar areas still do not have phone links.
Srinagar: Normal life remained at a standstill across Kashmir on the 28th consecutive day Sunday even as restrictions under Section 144 CrPC were eased in 11 more police station areas of the Valley. However, more stalls and kiosks were seen open in the “Sunday Markey”, a flea market on Srinagar’s Residency Road. Vendors did a little business in some other areas of the city as well.
Groceries, pharmacies and outlets selling mainly food functioned in some Srinagar areas for a few hours in the morning and again in the evening. Private vehicles plied in the city all day, except in areas under security restrictions. Similar reports are pouring in from other cities and towns of the Valley.
The authorities said restrictions have been lifted from the areas falling in 82 out of the 105 police stations of the Valley. They also said landline telephone services in 29 exchanges were now functional, in addition to the 47 already in operation. However, services are still off in Srinagar’s commercial hub Lal Chowk, the nearby Mushtaq Press Enclave where the offices of the Valley’s major newspapers and journalists are based, and other areas served from the city’s main BSNL exchange.
Also, mobile phone and Internet services continue to be suspended across the Valley and a few areas of the Jammu region.
Meanwhile, Kashmir’s mainstream leaders, including former CMs Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, detained a day before the state was stripped of its special status under Article 370 and split into two Union territories on August 5, have been allowed to finally meet their families and other relatives.
Mr Abdullah, vice-president of National Conference, was at the weekend visited by his sister Safia and her children at the Hari Niwas government guesthouse, less than half a kilometre from his residence along Srinagar’s Gupkar Road.
This was their second meeting in a week, official sources said. Mr Abdullah’s aunt (father’s sister) Surraya Mattoo and some other close relatives are also known to have met him briefly. It is reported that 49-year-old Mr Abdullah has grown a beard in these days.
Safia is reported to have been also allowed to meet her father Farooq Abdullah. She too had been earlier placed under house arrest at her Gupkar Road home next to that of Dr Abdullah. She had, however, spoken to her brother over the telephone on Id day (August 12). She had moved a court here against the authorities imposing curbs on her and her family’s movements, asking why despite being non-political persons they are being treated in such fashion.
Safia and Mattoo had earlier this week repeatedly met Srinagar deputy commissioner Shahid Chaudhary at his office to seek permission to visit Omar Abdullah.
Mufti’s mother Gulshan Ara and sister Rubaya Sayeed were also allowed to meet her at a tourism cottage in the Chashmashahi area on the foothills of Zabarwan here on Thursday.
The family members of dozens of other mainstream leaders, including former ministers and legislators of the NC, People’s Democratic Party, the Congress, the People’s Conference, J&K Peoples’ Movement and others have also been allowed to meet them. Most of them are lodged in Centaur Lakeview Hotel in Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre on the banks of the Dal Lake here.
This hotel was declared a “subsidiary jail” by the J&K home department on August 23. Subsequently, the deputy superintendent of police (security) Kashmir was designated as its superintendent was asked to regulate under statutory provisions of the relevant law meetings between the detainees and their relatives and friends “once or twice or oftener” and also give other necessary facilities to them under the jail manual.
However, Farooq Abullah, a three-time chief minister of the state and NC president, remains under house arrest and his repeated requests to meet his son have been rejected. He has no access to the phone, reports said. The authorities had two weeks ago restored the landline telephone services from Srinagar’s main BSNL exchange but withdrew them again within a couple of hours. It is learnt that during this reprieve, Dr Abdullah made a few phone calls, including one to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
His son and Ms Mufti too do not have access to the phone or even to TV news channels or newspapers. They have, however, been given a DVD player each to watch movies, a media report said.
J&K governor Satya Pal Malik justified the detention of the mainstream leaders and activists, saying there wre fears that their utterances could disturb the peace in the Valley. “Even if she (Mufti) or Omar Abdullah march with 20 or 50 people and threaten to burn Raj Bhavan, we will be forced to open fire,” he said in a newspaper interview.
He said Mufti has been lodged in a beautiful cottage where “I too wish to stay”, while Omar Abdullah is at Hari Niwas, which is “raja ka mahal (king’s palace)”. He said that those who claim to be leaders should learn to live in jail but they (mainstream politicians) are not even in jail. Asked how long these leaders will stay under detention, the governor said that this will depend on the ground situation.
Mr Malik also said there will be no dialogue with the mainstream political parties or separatists, but only with Kashmiri civil society. “There will be no dialogue with the mainstream political parties or the separatists while the line of the Hurriyat Conference has no meaning in Naya Kashmir and Naya Bharat,” he said.