Hartal and rally mar J&K "martyrs day"

15th July 1997
By: Asha Khosa

SRINAGAR: A Sombre occasion on Sunday to remember the Kashmiris who had laid down their lives while protesting against autocratic rule in 1931 turned into a high point in the ongoing battle for supremacy among various political groups in the Valley.

While the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference observed it a "black day" and called for a total strike, the National Conference held a rather insipid show at the first-ever political rally after coming to power. The "martyrs" day also saw Shabir Shah's relation with the APHC deteriorate further as he boycotted their "hartal call".

The ruling party organised a tribute paying function at the graveyard at Khanyar downtown, where 22 victims of the 1931 protests lay buried. Later in the day a few thousand people, mostly brought in chartered buses from rural areas, attended the party's public rally in the bandh-affected Srinagar city.The National Conference lashed out at the Hurriyat for "disowning the martyrs by calling for a black day.

They held the separatist leaders responsible for the bloodbath and turmoil in Kashmir.Official sources said Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah was away in London on a fortnight long vacation with his family.The Hurriyat call, given mainly to sabotage the NC public rally, was near total in the city.

The poor attendance in the public meeting, the NC sources said, was due to the "hartal" and a perceived threat by militants to transporters who would help the party in ferrying people to the public meeting venue.Shabir Shah offered floral tributes to the martyrs in defiance of the APHC diktats.

He told The Indian Express that the 1931 martyrs were the harbingers of the Kashmiri peoples' movement for self-determination and ignoring them would amount to insulting them.Meanwhile, Director General of State Police Gurbachan Singh Jagat said today that militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is in its last phase and could be over by the end of next year if the present level of pressure against militants continues."The activised state police is now all out after the militants.

We are working according to a changed strategy which involves direct offensive," the state police chief said in New Delhi. "Things will definitely be much better by mid-1998," he added.Observing that the current summer is crucial in terms of the "degree of militancy", he said police was intensifying its steps like specifying targets, enlisting militant leaders and entrusting police officers with specific tasks.Jagat, who took over the command of the state police in February, said fresh recruitment from among the locals has dried up and infiltrators mainly consist of mercenaries from Pakistan andPakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Pakistan was again trying to win over the reformed militants to join their machinations. "But not many will go to a losing side," Jagat said.Referring to the counter-militancy drive, he said that a major improvement has been in the information flow from people and police which in turn had resulted in the arrest or killing of many top leaders of militant organisations in the recent months.Jagat termed the coordination between local police and para-military forces and army as "excellent" and said that to strengthen the cooperation, we (heads of forces) undertake joint tours across the state to convey the message.

Eleven militants, including a woman activist from Bandipur surrendered to the security forces in Kashmir valley on Tuesday. The militants handed over a large cache of arms and ammunition but the identity of the militants and their affiliation was not disclosed as yet. This surrender, official sources said, was a "major setback" for the militants in north Kashmir. Security forces also apprehended a suspected militant at Magam and recovered a large quantity of arms.

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