Taking measures in a gradual manner, area by area, says chief secretary
By NAVEED IQBAL & ADIL AKHZER
Moving to relax restrictions imposed in the Valley after the state’s special status was revoked on August 5, the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Friday announced that communication lines will be restored in a phased manner, starting with landline phones over the weekend, and schools will resume functioning from Monday.
Announcing the easing of restrictions, chief secretary B V R Subrahmanyam told a press conference that government offices in the Valley functioned normally and attendance was “quite high” Friday. He said there has been no loss of life or major injury since the restrictions were imposed on August 5. “Keeping in view the evolving situation, as well as the cooperation of people in maintaining Valley curbs being relaxed: landline phones over weekend, schools to reopencalm and peace, we are now taking measures to ease the restrictions in a gradual manner,” Subrahmanyam said. “As things stand, 12 of the 22 districts of the state are functioning normally with some limited night-time restrictions in five of these.”
He said telecom connectivity will be gradually restored “exchange by exchange” keeping in mind the “constant threat posed by terrorist organisations in using mobile connectivity to organise terror actions”.
“You will see gradual restoration from tonight and tomorrow onward. You will find a lot of Srinagar functioning tomorrow morning. BSNL takes a couple of hours to get back to action. Exchange by exchange, they will be switching it on. Over the weekend, you will have most of these lines functional,” he said.
Stating that some decisions were taken for long-term welfare of the people of all regions of the state and for better governance and accelerated development, Subrahmanyam said, “In implementing the decisions taken last fortnight, this history of cross-border terrorism required the government to put in place certain preventive steps as a precautionary measure. An important factor in doing so were credible inputs that such terrorist organisations were planning to undertake strikes in the state in the immediate future.”
On the detentions over the last two weeks, he said “a few” preventive detentions were made in accordance with provisions of the law “to maintain law and order and avoid breach of peace”. As movement restrictions are removed “area by area”, public transport is expected to start plying in these areas. The government approach, he said, is guided by the conviction that all-round development is “the most credible solution to address the separatist sentiments propagated by vested interests”.
Responding to questions, the Chief Secretary said: “Our primary responsibility is to ensure that there is no loss of life. Most of you have seen the events of 2008, 2010 and 2016, what happened then and what has happened now. There has not been a single loss of life and the credit goes to the people of the state, the government and the security forces that they have managed to get over the situation very quietly and with utmost calm.”
In Srinagar, prohibitory orders were relaxed in the Civil Lines area to allow public and vehicle movement but the curbs remained in place in the downtown part of the city.
People offered Friday prayers at neighbourhood mosques but the bigger mosques, including Jamia Masjid at Nowhatta, remained out of bounds. The day passed off peacefully barring minor protests in parts of the Valley. At Jinab Sahib in Soura, people took to the streets after the prayers.
Residents of Foreshore Road near Hazratbal in Srinagar alleged that security personnel damaged public property Thursday evening following stone-pelting by protesters. Additional forces have been deployed in the area. Asked about the incident and claims of damage to civilian property, J&K government spokesperson Rohit Kansal said he would “get the matter checked”.
Kansal said a journalist, who was detained by security forces in Tral, has been released. Irfan Malik, a journalist working for the daily Greater Kashmir, was picked from his home Wednesday night and was taken to the Tral police station.