Independence Day was observed in the Kashmir Valley amid tight security on Thursday with Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik saying the government is committed to the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley.
The main Independence Day function was held at the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium here where Malik hoisted the tricolour.
This was the first Independence Day in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and the splitting of the state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir with an Assembly and Ladakh sans one.
All roads leading to the venue were sealed off. Security forces were deployed in large numbers at the stadium and outside. Only those with passes were allowed to go in.
According to the police sources, Lashkar and Jaish militant outfits have been active in the state and there were inputs of possible militant strike. In view of these alerts, the security forces were extra alert.
Mainstream political leaders were not present in the function as most of them have been arrested after the scrapping of Article 370. However, some second rung BJP leaders were present.
Addressing the gathering, Malik said the government was committed to the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits who had fled the Valley in thousands in 1990 after militancy erupted in the state.
Malik said that stone-pelting incidents had come down and the recruitment of Kashmiri youth in terror outfits had also reduced.
Kashmir has been witnessing restrictions on the movement of people and traffic after the abgrogation of Article 370. Communication network have been curbed and security is cautious. But no case of fatal casualty has been reported after the revocation of Article 370.
Independence Day celebrations were held in all the district headquarters. But with a total clampdown in Kashmir Valley, there were hardly any people on road, and vehicles didn”t ply as well. Educational institutions and business establishments remained closed.
Security forces were deployed in strength in the market places and the highways. Jammu and Kashmir Police, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Army were seen carrying out regular patrolling in all the towns and villages of the erstwhile state.
Government Spokesperson Rohit Kansal said that reasonable restrictions have been put in place to maintain law and order in the Valley. He further said the situation in Kashmir continued to be calm as no major incidents have been reported due to which the government has given further relaxation in prohibitory orders in many areas.
“We are reviewing the situation on a regular basis. All necessary steps to relax prohibition will be taken,” Kansal said.