Srinagar/New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) India on Thursday blamed Pakistan for the current unrest in the Kashmir Valley where normal life remained paralysed for the 13th successive day amid a strict curfew even as separatists relaxed their shutdown for a few hours.
An eerie calm prevailed in large parts of the valley though a police spokesperson said stone-throwing protests erupted at about a dozen places.
Several people were injured in clashes between protesters and security forces, the latest in the series of violent agitation that erupted on July 9, in retaliation to the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani in a gunfight with security forces.
Wani was the top commander of Kashmir’s largest rebel group Hizbul Mujahideen, a pro-Pakistan militant outfit fighting in the Muslim-dominated valley.
In New Delhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh squarely blamed Pakistan for the Kashmir unrest, saying it was “sponsoring” terrorism in India.
“There can be no denying the fact that our neighbour (Pakistan) is singularly responsible for the present deterioration of the situation in the state,” Rajnath Singh said, replying to a short-duration discussion in the Lok Sabha that was taken up a day earlier.
Rajnath Singh said Kashmir is an integral part of India. “Kashmir is India’s ‘mukut’ (crown). It is heaven and the neighbouring country is keeping an evil eye on it. I am hopeful that the pride of Kashmir will be restored.”
The Home Minister took strong exception to the “Black Day” that Pakistan observed on the killing of Wani and said: “The terrorist was involved in various heinous crimes and activities. Pakistan need not worry about Muslims in India.”
He said the “situation in the Kashmir Valley is steadily returning to normalcy” and claimed that “essential commodities are being supplied in the curfew clamped areas and the ban which has been imposed on the internet has been lifted”.
But in Kashmir, curfew as well as the ban on cellular internet connectivity continued for the 13th day.
A state police spokesperson said the restrictions will “remain strictly in place throughout till further orders”.
The fresh order reiterating the imposition of curfew came as separatists asked Kashmiris to open their shops and stock essentials after they temporarily relaxed their “shutdown” from 2 p.m. on Thursday.
The shutdown relaxation sparked rumours that the government will also ease its curfew restrictions.
But the police spokesperson said, “There will be no relaxation in curfew and restrictions across Kashmir Valley”.
In Srinagar, the police and paramilitary presence was beefed up and areas where restrictions were a bit lax in the past few days also came under strict curfew.
Some shopkeepers in Lal Chowk area and surrounding areas, including upscale Polo View, Lambert Lane, and Residency Road markets, had assembled to open their shops and stores after 2 p.m.
However, they were not allowed as police closed almost all entry points to Lal Chowk. Separatists have again called a shutdown from Friday till Monday.
The authorities had also decided to open schools in four of the 10 districts of Ganderbal, Bandipora, Badgam and Baramulla on Thursday.
However, most of the schools had very little or no presence of children. “Not even a single student had come,” said a teacher, requesting anonymity, at a school in Bandipore’s Garoora village. Education Minister Naeem Akhtar belongs to Garoora.
“It is understood. Parents won’t risk the life of their children and send them to school in times of curfew.”
The University of Kashmir on Thursday postponed examinations “till further orders”, according to a varsity spokesperson.
Meanwhile, a five-hour all-party meet called by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti ended without any consensus among ruling and opposition political parties in the state.
Mehbooba Mufti avoided speaking to the media. The meeting was boycotted by the largest opposition party, the National Conference.