India blames Pakistan for Kashmir trouble as valley stays calm (Roundup)

Srinagar/New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) Amid a continuing curfew and media lockdown, the Kashmir Valley on Monday stayed calm barring a few stray incidents of stone throwing at security forces as India squarely blamed Pakistan for the unrest that has claimed over 40 lives in the past over 10 days.

Curfew remained in place all across the valley, hitting normal life for the 11th day. Shops, businesses, banks, private and government offices remained closed. People complained of severe hardships due to the security restrictions and separatist-called shutdown.

In New Delhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Parliament refuted the charges of use of excessive force on protesting civilians and stressed that on the contrary, the security forces had been asked to use maximum restraint and the least force.

Singh, as well as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, blamed Pakistan for the situation in Kashmir, and said Islamabad has never reconciled to Jammu and Kashmir being part of India.

The Home Minister, responding to a nearly four-hour-long discussion, said he particularly instructed the chiefs of security forces, including the CRPF and BSF, to “use as little force as possible”.

“We will be tough on militants and have sensitivity towards the people,” he said.

Jaitley refuted Congress’ charge that the state government had mishandled or failed to handle the bloody unrest triggered by the July 8 killing of 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, the social-media-savvy poster boy of new age militancy in Kashmir.

“To think that because BJP-PDP coalition is ruling there and that’s why there is this problem, is not correct,” Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha, replying to opposition charges.

“Pakistan never reconciled the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India,” he said, adding it would be wrong to think that the situation deteriorated because of anything else, but Pakistan supporting terrorism in the violence-ravaged state.

The Finance Minister said that in Jammu and Kashmir it was the battle between the country and Pakistan-sponsored separatist forces.

“The battle in Jammu and Kashmir is between the separatists and the country. In the fight against separatism, people of Kashmir are with the country.”

As the opposition decried the state and central governments’ role in handling the situation, the media ban continued and no newspapers were published for the third day on Monday. The gag is expected to continue on Tuesday.

The information blackout has led to very little being reported from parts of the valley, particularly from south Kashmir which has been the worst hit in the turmoil. Most of the 40 deaths have occurred in this region.

Authorities have imposed a blanket ban on newspapers, asking their editors and owners not to publish till July 19. Journalists fear that the ban may be extended till there is some “semblance” of normalcy on Kashmir streets.

All mobile phone services, including internet and call facilities, have been snapped across the valley. Limited call facility continued on post-paid cell phones provided by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).

A policeman told IANS here that except for some stone throwing incidents calm prevailed all over the valley on Monday.

One such protest erupted in Khrew area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district where at least five people were injured. One of the wounded is said to be critical.

Earlier, a ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker was seriously injured when his vehicle met with an accident following an alleged mob attack, also in Pulwama.

Mohammed Khalil Bandh was travelling from his home in Pulwama to Srinagar “in the dead of the night” when the accident occurred, a police spokesperson told IANS here, adding that there was “some confusion” about the incident.

People, who have been restricted to their homes due to the curfew and shutdown, complained of severe hardships. They say they have not been able to buy and stock essentials due to incessant restrictions.

Closure of the strategic Jammu-Srinagar National Highway for over a week has caused shortage of essential items. All supplies of essentials items are routed into the landlocked valley through this highway — the only road link that connects Kashmir with the rest of India.

Train services between Baramulla town in the valley and Banihal town in the Jammu region also remained suspended for the 11th day on Monday.

Separatist leaders continue to remain under house arrest and preventive detention in summer capital Srinagar.

The central government has rushed another 20 companies of paramilitary forces to assist the state in quelling the street unrest.

–IANS

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