PM Begins Jammu & Kashmir Visit Amid Shutdown7 June 2010
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began a two-day trip to Jammu and Kashmir on Monday even as a general shutdown called by separatists to protest the visit affected life in this summer capital. The prime minister addressed the 5th convocation of the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) at its convention complex on the banks of Dal Lake. He arrived in a special plane accompanied by wife Gursharan Kaur and union ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad and Prithviraj Chauhan. Security was heightened and restrictions imposed in parts of this city in view of the shutdown. T.K.A. Nair, principal secretary to the prime minister, Shiv Shankar Menon, the national security advisor, and Harish Khare, media advisor to Manmohan Singh, are also part of the delegation. Governor N.N. Vohra, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, his father and union minister Farooq Abdullah received the prime minister. Normal life was was affected because of the shutdown called by hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani. Markets were shut as public transport, schools and other businesses remained closed in the city. Police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were deployed in strength to thwart violence in five police station areas of the Old City. 'There is no restriction on the movement of civilians. Preventive measures have been taken to ensure safety of civilian life and property,' a senior police officer said. Police and intelligence officials here ejected as 'alarmist' media reports that separatist guerrillas had planned suicide attacks in Srinagar. All roads leading to the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Complex, the venue of the convocation, have been sealed. No pedestrian or vehicle is allowed on these roads unless they hold special police passes. All the Mughal gardens, including Nishat, Shalimar and Chasma Shahi, have been closed for two days as they are located close to the venue for functions to be attended by Manmohan Singh. The prime minister is also expected to announce a Rs.200 crore package to revive the Kashmiri saffron industry, which is going through a downturn because of adulterated saffron flooding the markets. He is scheduled to meet delegations of mainstream political parties in the evening. Manmohan Singh is also likely to renew his call to separatists to resume political dialogue with the central government.