Authorities maintained strict security across Jammu and Kashmir a day before Eid celebrations even as restrictions – put in place ahead of the Centre’s move to revoke the state’s autonomy – were eased in some areas on Sunday to facilitate preparations for the festival, officials said.
Some markets, banks and ATMs remained open on Sunday, with the state administration saying it was taking steps to facilitate the availability of essentials and for people to offer prayers at mosques on Monday.
At least two reports said that security was stepped up in some parts of Srinagar. Television news channel NDTV said police vehicles were seen making announcements asking people to return to their homes. News agency Reuters said its reporter saw a police van driving around one part of Srinagar announcing that restrictions had been imposed again after being relaxed earlier in the day.
There was, however, no official confirmation on the restrictions being reimposed in the city.
“I am conscious of the fact it needs a lot more for a normal and enjoyable Eid. We are trying to reduce inconveniences and ease facilities. Just had an elaborate meeting with Imaams for prayer arrangements,” Srinagar district magistrate Shahid Choudhary tweeted.
Restrictions were imposed in Jammu and Kashmir to prevent security threats as Parliament effectively revoked Article 370 last week, ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and passed a bill bifurcating it into two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh.
The move triggered protests by some opposition parties that alleged the government had carried out the preparation for the move under a veil of secrecy. On Saturday night, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Reports of unrest are emanating from J&K where the Govt. has imposed a media & communications black out. I urge the Govt. to take urgent steps to ensure the safety of every citizen in J&K and to lift the veil of secrecy.”
All communication links were disrupted since August 5, after the Centre’s decision on Article 370.
Authorities said that while there were reports of sporadic protests, no violence was reported anywhere in the Valley. “Everything is peaceful. The restrictions have eased and there has been lot of improvement in public and transport movement,” Choudhary said.
In Jammu, life appeared to be returning to normal as restrictions under section 144 of CrPc were completely lifted in five districts. In the other five districts, restrictions were relaxed to facilitate Eid preparations, according to an official who did not wish to be named.
Magistrates have been deployed at critical spots to act as facilitators for the convenience of the general public, an official statement said. Jammu and Kashmir governor’s administration issued an advisory saying that 300 special telephone booths were being established to help public communicate with their kin.
The district administrations were constantly reviewing the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and they would facilitate people to offer prayers at mosques during Eid, an official told PTI, asking not to be named.
Last Friday, people were allowed to visit neighbourhood mosques and offer prayers there. However, large gatherings were not allowed in any part of the Valley.
“The government is conscious of the ground situation and doing utmost so that there is minimum inconvenience to the people. Every day something or the other restrictions are relaxed. We will take decisions on lifting restrictions on phones as early as possible,” the official added.
District magistrates have made arrangements for Eid-ul-Azha, the official statement said, adding that treasuries, banks and ATMs were made functional even on a holiday in the run-up to the festival.
Authorities in Srinagar said there have been sporadic instances of stone pelting by protesters but no gun firing by security forces in the past six days. Television images showed movement of cars and people in some parts of Kashmir.
All India Radio quoted chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam as saying that people were coming out of their homes for Eid shopping.
Union minister of state for home G Kishan Reddy said on Saturday he hoped prohibitory orders would be “fully peaceful in the coming 10-15 days”.
In the old city, restrictions continued as security personnel cordoned off most of the main roads and lanes with concertina wire. Internet, landline and mobile phone services have been suspended since last Sunday.
While officials said that the Valley remained peaceful, Eid festivities largely remained missing on the streets on Sunday. “Earlier, Eid used to be celebrated with great fervour. This time, very few people are on the streets and people are not buying things like previous years,” said Gowhar Ahmad, a resident of the old city.
“Though restrictions were eased in the morning, most shops didn’t open despite Eid,” said Fayaz Ahmad, owner of a readymade clothes store at Srinagar’s Regal Chowk.