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R-Day in Kashmir: Empty streets and jammed networks

Last updated on: January 26, 2011 19:48 IST

R-Day in Kashmir: Empty streets and jammed networks

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Unprecedented security measures were taken across Srinagar city, including Bharatiya Janata Party's professed flag-hoisting venue Lal Chowk and parade ground Bakshi stadium to ensure that the Republic Day was celebrated peacefully.

Smarting from the shoe-throwing incident on the Independence Day, the security grid had installed a video camera at the main entrance of the stadium to keep a record of all the attendees to the function.

All the invited persons were subjected to four body frisks before entering the main stadium complex to ensure that the incident was not repeated.

A suspended policeman had thrown a shoe at Chief Minister Omar Abdullah during the parade on August 15.

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Image: There was high security cover in Kashmir on Republic Day
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
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The Clock Tower at Lal Chowk turned into a virtual fortress with hundreds of policemen and Central Reserve Police Force troops guarding routes leading to it and preventing any civilian movement in the area.

Even though authorities did not declare any curfew in the city, akin restrictions were imposed in most parts of the summer capital to scuttle any efforts by the BJP cadres and separatist group Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front to hoist any flag at the spot.

The police had laid concertina wires on all the roads leading to Lal Chowk and even prevented media persons from approaching the area.

Image: A policeman guarding the Lal Chowk in Srinagar
Photographs: Reuters
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R-Day in Kashmir: Empty streets and jammed networks

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For the first time since eruption of militancy in the state, the security of the Clock Tower and its surrounding areas was handed over to Special Operations Group of the local police instead of CRPF, which has been manning the area since 2003 after taking over from BSF.

Only police and CRPF vehicles, which had been issued special passes, were allowed to travel in the area.

The restrictions were also severe because separatist group JKLF, which has a stronghold in neighbouring Maisuma locality, had called for a counter-march to Lal Chowk and vowed to hoist its own flag there.

BJP's plans to hoist flag at the culmination of the Ekta Yatra, which was allowed to enter into Jammu and Kashmir, comes after 19 years when Murli Manohar Joshi and Narendra Modi unfurled the flag at Lal Chowk amidst tight security.

Severe restrictions on the movement of the people were also imposed in other parts of the valley.

Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
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Authorities jammed mobile phone and wireless Internet services in Kashmir valley for four hours as a precautionary measure to ensure smooth Republic Day celebrations.

The communication services were suspended to all mobile connections as a practice to ensure that militants do not use these gadgets to trigger-off explosives, officials said.

Militants had triggered an IED blast outside the Bakshi stadium, the main venue of Republic Day function in Kashmir, on this day six years ago using a mobile phone.

The wireless Internet connections were also severed for the period and restored at 1300 hrs. The mobile services were restored in the afternoon at the conclusion of the official function
.

Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
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R-Day in Kashmir: Empty streets and jammed networks

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The tight security ensured a smooth functioning of the parade at Srinagar's heavily-fortified Bakashi stadium where J&K Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather unfurled the tricolour. He accused parties like the BJP of trying to divide the country along the communal lines for their political interests.

"Unfortunately, there are some parties which want to divide the country along the communal lines for their petty political interests," Rather said in his address on the Republic Day..

Rather said the people of Kashmir have always defeated the attempts to divide the society along communal lines. "That is why Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi saw a ray of hope in Kashmir during the riots in 1947 partition," he said.

"India is a secular country and if anyone opposes secularism, they are against the Constitution," Rather said.

On to the development of Jammu and Kashmir over the 61 years of the Republic, Rather said the state had achieved many targets but the 21 years of militancy and turmoil was a major setback.

Image: JK Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather hoists the tricolour at Bakashi stadium
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
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The Republic Day parade also saw a display of Kashmir's rich folk culture.

Smartly turned out contingents of police, paramilitary troopers, civil defence and school children marched past in the stadium, around which authorities had thrown a three-tier security grid. Cultural programmes were also held at the stadium, highlighting the cultural diversity of the state.

Image: A girl performs in a cultural show at the R-Day function
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
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J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah prodded separatists to join the dialogue process initiated by interlocutors in the state.  In his Republic Day address, Omar focused on the issue of peace talks and called for utilising the present conducive
atmosphere of dialogue in a positive manner to address political issues of Jammu and Kashmir.

"I hope that you will become the part of dialogue and contribute for better future of the state," Omar said in his Republic Day address in Jammu.

The Chief Minister reminded the people of the loss of precious lives and property during the period of militancy and the five months of summer unrest last year and said that violence has never solved any problem. "The brave and lively societies resolve their issues amicably in a peaceful atmosphere," he said and called for joint efforts for peace and welfare of the state.

Image: JK Chief Minister Omar Abdullah

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