As one more protester died in renewed violence in the Kashmir Valley on Saturday, the authorities stopped cable network services and seized newspapers, fearing serious trouble in the next three days.
Cable services were restored late in the evening but operators were barred from showing Pakistani channels.
On the eighth day of protests, the authorities also faced a new challenge: of Army installations coming under attack by mobs in north Kashmir.
Security forces again faced curfew-defying mobs in several districts. A youth was killed at Hutmulla, Kupwara, and two others sustained bullet injuries in the clashes. Several policemen were also injured.
In Srinagar’s Nishat locality, pro-freedom songs were played from a mosque. This prompted a police crackdown in which several civilians were injured.
Meanwhile, the government enforced an information blackout, raiding newspaper printing facilities and seizing copies of newspapers “in view of apprehensions of serious trouble in the Kashmir valley in next three days.”
“Curfew will be imposed and movement of newspaper staff and distribution of newspapers will not be possible,” a government spokesperson said.
A spokesman of Greater Kashmir, the leading newspaper in the Valley, said the police seized printing plates and sealed 50,000 copies of the newspaper at on Friday night. “Three employees were arrested, phones snatched and employees threatened,” the spokesman said.
The press of another daily, Rising Kashmir, was also raided and employees shifted to a police station to stop printing. The circulation of all leading English dailies was stopped.
“The government has imposed press emergency in Kashmir. It has conveyed that newspapers cannot be published for the next few days,” Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari said.
Phone services, both landline and mobile, have also been affected. Only BSNL lines, mainly of officials, were functioning.
Masked men are new heroes
Masked men are fast emerging as the new leaders of the “movement” in Kashmir. They are not only controlling the streets but also dominating the political discourse.
Unknown persons are distributing pamphlets and posters in Srinagar mosques, containing instructions for the public. The pamphlets asked shopkeepers not to open their establishments till they issue a calendar of protests for the masses. They have warned against violating the calendar. The posters also shower praise on slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
In another development, a video has been doing the rounds showing half-a-dozen masked youth who pledged to take the “street agitation to its logical end.”
“We will not allow diffusion of the Kashmir struggle on the basis of sects etc this time. Unlike 2010 [referring to the street agitation that left 113 protesters dead], we will take the agitation to a logical conclusion,” said one of the masked men in the video. Speaking to The Hindu, Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said these youth represent “the angry section whose passions are fuelled by a fresh wave of killings by the security forces.”
Hurriyat to chalk out plan
“Hurriyat leaders will have to meet to chalk out the future plan. At present, our concern is that killings should stop and people be allowed to mourn,” he said.
Meanwhile, without making any reference to any political group, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s political adviser Amitabh Matto said, “The government is always ready for a dialogue with all those who can build sustainable peace in Jammu and Kashmir.”