Srinagar, Aug 9: A “flag march” in the twin localities of Shiv Pora –Sonawar near the Badami Bagh Cantonment here this morning triggered panic with people running for cover, reports and witnesses said.
Even as there was no formal announcement of curfew or restrictions in the City, the residents said at around 8:00 AM a large contingency of Army holding flags drove down the main road in armored vehicles.
In tune with the recent news reports that Army was likely to take over control of some areas in restive Kashmir, the locals initially thought the residential localities have been taken over by the men in olive green. Witnesses said people immediately rushed indoors though traffic kept plying on the main highway.
The Army march, as per the inhabitants, continued for over two hours. “The armored vehicles with flags atop drove up and down the road and even traversed the Indra Nagar locality,” the locals said.
By now, as per the witnesses, there was chaos at the nearby GB Pant Hospital, Kashmir’s sole pediatric hospital.
The attendants of children admitted in the hospital and others being brought for treatment felt unnerved. “What will we do now? How will we take our children back home?” the people said as they assembled near the main gate on the highway where Army was on patrol.
At around 10:00 AM, the tension in the civilian circles heightened when some of the Army vehicles started making announcements in Kashmiri asking the people particularly youth to refrain from any assemblage.
“I myself saw Army vehicles with loudspeakers making announcements in Kashmiri asking people not to assemble in groups,” said a resident of Shiv Pora locality who kept watching the “flag march” from his bedroom window. “We have been living here for decades, this was never the scene before even during curfews,” he said.
The inhabitants said the Army march could be the reaction to recent protest marches carried out by the locals. “We have already been told by Army not to hold any demonstrations in the area and those desirous of doing so should go to Lal Chowk,” said some residents of Sonawar, the locality, a mile away from the residence of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Meanwhile a senior police official while downplaying the matter said it could be security arrangement for the movement of some senior Army officers. “There was no flag march… May be it was GOC on the move,” the official told Kashmir Observer.
When told that the Army vehicles made announcements in Kashmiri through Public Address system, he said “then I will have to check it out.”
For the past over a week, there are reports that the state government was likely to handover some areas of restive Kashmir to Army.
The Valley has been on boil since July 8, when Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani and his two associates were killed. Since then at least 57 people have died and over 6000 wounded in mob-control measures by the government forces.
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