Srinagar: A strike called by separatists on the 68th anniversary of Indian troops’ arrival in Kashmir has paralysed normal life in the scenic Valley.
The first batch of Indian troops from Sikh Regiment’s first battalion was airlifted to Srinagar on October 27, 1947 after Maharaja Hari Singh signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’. The accession was supported by Kashmir’s legendary leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.
However, various separatist parties while claiming India forcibly occupied Jammu and Kashmir on the pretext of the Maharaja’s seeking its military assistance to push back the Pakistani tribal raiders had called for observing 'black day' on the anniversary of Indian Army’s arrival. They also, like some historians, allege that sending in Indian troops had been planned days before they actually arrived at the Srinagar airport.
Hundreds of J&K policemen and CRPF personnel are patrolling the streets of Srinagar to hold back protests by separatists. Also, key separatist leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were placed under house arrest ahead of the observance of ‘black day’. In overnight raids police arrested several activists, owing allegiance to various separatist outfits.
These separatist leaders have in their statements urged United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to persuade India and Pakistan to initiate positive steps towards seeking an amicable solution of the Kashmir issue or alternatively pave the way for implementation of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council. Mr. Geelani has also demanded that a special UN envoy on Kashmir be appointed at earliest.
In New York, Kashmiri-Americans held a ‘Million-Man-March’ to press for “a just and durable resolution of the longstanding Kashmir dispute”. The march joined by several visiting Kashmiri leaders from PoK and their supporters was initiated from outside the Indian high commission office and concluded at the United Nations building.
Tuesday’s shutdown called by various separatist parties has brought live to a standstill in Srinagar and other major towns of the Kashmir Valley. However, at few places the strike call has evoked only partial response with shops, mainly groceries and pharmacies, functioning and private cars and auto-rickshaws plying routinely.
In southern Pulwama, irate crowds clashed with police at several places as the town with neighbouring Shopian has seen huge crowds out on the streets to protest and mourn the killing of two Hizb-ul-Mujahedin militants in a fire fight with security forces in Drabgam village of the district (Pulwama) on Monday. One Junior Commissioned Office (JCO) of the Army’s 44 Rashtriya Rifles, KVS Reddy, also laid down his life during the clash.
Meanwhile, Army celebrated Infantry Day at its Northern Command (NC) headquarters in garrison town of Udhampur. The day is observed every year on October 27, coinciding with the arrival of first batch of Indian troops in Srinagar on this day in 1947.
The Infantry is the largest component and the premier fighting arm of the Indian Army, also known as the ‘Queen of the Battle’. The celebrations at the Northern Command were marked by laying of wreath at war memorials, Sainik Sammelans and Sainik Bhojs.
A similar function was held at the 15 (Chinar) Corps headquarters at Srinagar's Badami Bagh cantonment during which rich tributes were paid to the ‘martyrs’ particularly Brigadier Rajinder Singh of the J&K State Forces "who imposed a delay on the Pakistan raiders which proved crucial as it gave time to the Indian Army to organise its defences and prevent the invaders from taking over Srinagar,” a statement issued by the Army here said.
BJP, which is for the first time a part of J&K’s coalition government and some other like-minded groups based mainly in Jammu are in quite contrast to the separatists’ ‘black day’ call celebrating the day, asserting the J&Ks accession with Union of India is "complete and final". BJP’s senior leader and deputy chief minister, Dr. Nirmal Singh, said that the Instrument of Accession signed by the then Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh was same as signed by other princely states and is hence not questionable.