Kashmir shuts against NIA raids, arrest spree

Kashmir observed a complete shutdown on Wednesday against mass arrest of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists, the National Investigation Agency raids on residences of top separatist leaders including Muhammad Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and “attempts to tinker with” Article 35-A.

The two-day call for shutdown (for Wednesday and Thursday) has been given by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik.

Last week, the police swooped on Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists—apart from religious scholars of Jamiat-e-Ahlihadith and some separatist leaders—for unspecified reasons, especially in southern areas of the Valley.

More than 100 leaders and activists of Jamaat were detained in nocturnal raids that started across Kashmir on Friday. Among separatists, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Malik was detained and lodged in police station Kothibagh.

The JRL call evoked a complete response across the Valley. In Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, all commercial establishments and private institutions remained closed while roads wore a deserted look.

In Downtown, the police imposed restrictions under section 144, which bars assembly of more than four people at a time, amid heavy deployment of forces.

A witness said in areas including Mahraj Gunj, Safa Kadal, Khanyar, Nowhatta and Rainawari, police and paramilitary forces were deployed in large numbers to prevent any protests, though no curfew was imposed there.

Another witness said mild clashes were witnessed in Bemina and Bagh-e-Mehtaab areas of Srinagar, where the police fired a few teargas canisters to push the protestors back.

Reports of complete shutdown also came in from southern districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag and also from the northern districts of Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora.

On Tuesday, the NIA sleuths carried out raids at residences of seven separatist leaders including the Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (at Nigeen), JKLF chief Malik (at Maisuma), Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai (at Hyderpora), Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani’s son Naseem Geelani, Masrat Alam Bhat, Shabir Ahmed Shah and Zafar Akbar Bhat.

The NIA in its statement claimed to have “seized incriminating material, property details, bank accounts and electronic devices” from the residences of these separatist leaders.