Key officials met here Thursday to discuss plans to stop these Pakistan Day celebrations. They have been told by security agencies that any attempt to intervene to stop crowds from gathering is fraught with the risk of hurting civilians.
Flag-posts, improvised from metal pipes used for drainage, have been set up on cement foundations, along with makeshift wooden stakes at more than 25 places along the road from Sopore through Watlab on to Bandipora, say intelligence reports. The Sopore-Doabgah-Rafiabad road, in turn, is estimated to have more than 20 such platforms.Pulwama, Sopore and Anantnag, sources said, also have a dense concentration of makeshift sites for August 14 flag-hoisting functions, mainly along interior roads vacated by the police and Central Reserve Police Force during the month-long violence that followed the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s Burhan Wani.
“Though we have succeeded in restoring some order in major urban areas and district headquarters”, a senior police official admitted, “we are simply in no position to assert influence through large swathes of the countryside”.
New Delhi has become increasingly worried about continued pro-Pak rallies in parts of rural Kashmir. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s government has instructed police not to use force to disperse peaceful protests. Hundreds of protestors waved Pak flags during a rally on boats down the Jhelum on Wednesday, from Urnhall to Panzalpora, close to the Chief Minister’s home town, Bijbehara.
Large rallies also took place at Gulzarpora and Dadsar in southern Kashmir’s Pulwama district earlier this week, police sources said, while a similar event in Kulgam’s Damhal Hanjipora saw attacks on police and attempts to loot weapons.
“Though no formal instructions have been given”, a senior police official said, “the police leadership has been told to avoid all situations where the use of lethal force is likely. In practice, this means allowing secessionists to mobilise”.
In several places, local militants have continued to appear at rallies — in spite of public instructions from Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin, not to do so, for fear of bringing bad publicity to the ongoing anti-India mobilisation. Three armed militants were seen at the head of a protest in Lolab’s Lalpora village on Tuesday, government sources said.
Earlier, south Kashmir’s Lashkar-e-Taiba chief, code-named Abu Dujana, attended remembrance ceremonies for Burhan Wani at Kareemabad, Arwani, Kaimoh and other villages in South Kashmir.
Local Pakistan Day parades were sometimes organised by militant groups in 1988-1989 in the years before troops established their presence in the more remote parts of Kashmir’s countryside.