Restrictions lifted from most of Kashmir, situation improving gradually

Authorities lifted restrictions from most of Kashmir on Saturday, a day after they had imposed strict curbs on movement of people in the Valley in view of the Friday prayers and the proposed march of separatists to the local United Nations office. Day-time restrictions have been lifted from 69 police station areas in the Valley, JK Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal told reporters this evening. Officials said traffic movement increased on Saturday and attendance in offices also improved. However, public transport remained off roads and markets in the Valley were shut for the 20th day. Vendors have put up stalls in Batamaloo and Lal Chowk areas of Srinagar. Despite the curbs, Kansal said, the total dispatch of fruits this year has been 1.20 lakh metric tonnes against 89,000 metric tonnes during the corresponding period last year. Divisional and district administrations are taking necessary steps to ensure that the harvesting, transport and export of fruits continue smoothly and unhindered. Kansal, also the administrations spokesperson, said about 1,500 primary schools and 1,000 middle schools have reopened since August 5 when the Centre withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and reorganised the state into two Union territories But the attendance of students has remained thin. He said security forces are maintaining a close watch and local disturbances were being handled at the local level. Incidents of protests and stone pelting have declined steadily in the past one week. Three incidents were reported on August 21 and two on August 22, he said. The threat of cross-border terrorism, however, continues to exist and the security forces are maintaining a state of high alert, he said. He said restoration of landline telephone services is being reviewed continuously and eight new exchanges The endeavour is to restore landline phones in the 69 police station areas form where day-time restrictions have been lifted, he said. Restrictions were imposed in view of the Friday congregational prayers and separatists call for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan in Sonawar. Officials said the situation remained peaceful on Friday. On Saturday, they added, barricades were removed from most areas but concertina wire barriers remained in place on roads in some areas of Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley and security forces allowed the movement of people only after checking their identity cards. Asked about the administrations decision to not allow opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, to visit the Valley, Kansal said the priority is to maintain security and law and order at a time when the threat of cross-border terrorism continues to exist. They had been requested to not visit the Valley, he said. Asked about the number of people detained across the Valley, the spokesperson said the detentions were subjected to dynamic reviews. We are facing a situation of cross-border terrorism and public law and order. The local law enforcing agencies may take decisions at the local level and these decisions are subjected to dynamic reviews. If there are arrests, there are also releases also, he said.