Indian home minister Rajnath Singh today began his two-day Kashmir visit to give a healing touch to the restive Valley, with two trade bodies boycotting him. Curfew was lifted from four districts and parts of Srinagar town but remained in force in other areas as a precautionary measure.
Barring stray incidents of stone-pelting, the first day of Singh's visit to the northern most state of the country passed off peacefully.
Kashmir has been on a boil for several days after the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani on July 8 in an encounter with security forces.
As he took stock of the situation in the valley, Singh met BJP ministers in the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government in the state, including deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh. A group of Muslim clerics also met Singh at the high-security Nehru Guest House. A delegation of Shikarawalas and houseboat owners also called on the home minister and apprised him of their problems.
A home ministry release said Singh would meet Governor N N Vohra and chief minister Mehbooba Mufti later today. Mehbooba was away meeting families of those killed in action by security forces when Singh arrived here.
Trade bodies boycot home minister's visit
Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), two major representative trade bodies in the Valley, decided not to meet the home minister, saying such exercises in the past have been futile.
Meanwhile, curfew was lifted from Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam and Ganderbal districts and some parts of Srinagar city in view of the improving situation in these areas, a police official said.
The official, however, said restrictions on assembly of four or more people under Section 144 CrPC will continue in the areas where curfew has been lifted. He said curfew remained in force in Anantnag, Kulgam, Kupwara, Pulwama and Shopian districts of the Valley and eight police station areas of the city.
Singh is scheduled to hold meetings with state government officials, political leaders and others during his two-day stay. However, representatives of the two trade bodies, who were to meet him today, decided to boycott him.
Meanwhile, two senior police officers have been transferred from South Kashmir range, which was among the worst affected areas hit by violence following killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Wani.
Senior IPS officer Ghulam Hassan Bhat has been posted as DIG South Kashmir range, replacing Nitish Kumar, a government spokesman said.
He said SSP Anantnag Abdul Jabbar was also transfered and replaced by SSP Traffic (Rural) Zubair.
The KEA, in an open letter to the Home Minister, said while they could understand the urgency for his visit to Kashmir for assessing the situation, "we also can esily determine the futility of this exercise."
In the hard-hitting letter, the trade body accused the Union ministers of showing "arrogance and hostility" to the people of the Valley about whose problems they had "no real knowledge".