Arrest spree, NIA raids: Kashmir, Banihal shut for 2nd day

A complete shutdown was observed across Kashmir and in Banihal town of Jammu region for the second consecutive day on Thursday against the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raids on the residences of top separatist leaders including Muhammad Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and the “attempts to tinker with” Article 35A.

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

A bunch of petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court seeking roll back of Article 35A, the hereditary state subject law that guarantees special citizenship rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir by barring outsiders from buying any property in the state.

The shutdown call evoked a complete response as all business establishments and private offices remain closed for the second day.

In the commercial hub, Lal Chowk in Srinagar, the markets wore a deserted look while thin traffic movement was noticed on roads.

Reports of complete shutdown also came from southern districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag and also from the northern districts of Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora. In downtown, Srinagar, a witness said, heavy deployment of forces was made to prevent protest against the NIA raids and arrest of scores of Jamaat activists.

On Tuesday, the NIA sleuths carried out raids at the 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 teams also conducted raids in southern Kashmir, on the house of Sajad Ahmed Bhat at Marhama, Bijbehera, Anantnag district. Bhat, according to the NIA, was the owner of the vehicle used in Lethpora, Pulwama attack carried on February 14 that saw death of 40 CRPF men and injuries to dozens of others. Bhat has joined the Jaish-e-Muhammad outfit since. The NIA in its statement claimed to have seized “incriminating material” during the raids.

Besides NIA raids, police had detained scores of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists across Kashmir last Friday in Kashmir, including its chief Hameed Fayaz.

The police also detained Jamiat-e-Ahlihadees vice-chairman Mushtaq Ahmed Veeri and other activists of the organisation. The JKLF chief Muhammad Yasin Malik was also detained on Friday and he continues to remain lodged in police station Kothibagh.

Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who was barred from addressing media at his Nigeen residence on Wednesday, was placed under house arrest, a source in the Hurriyat said.

Meanwhile, a complete shutdown is also being observed in Banihal and Khari tehsils of Ramban district for the second consecutive day on the JRL call.  A witness said that all shops, commercial establishments and private institutions remained closed for the day while traffic also remained off the roads.