Srinagar: Life came to a grinding halt as shop and business establishments were closed and traffic was off the roads due to a strike called by separatists in Kashmir valley on Saturday, when polling for the first of the nine phased panchayat elections was being held.
A police official told UNI that they were no restrictions in any part of the summer capital, Srinagar though security forces have been deployed in strength to maintain law and order.
However, historic Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar was closed yet again as a precautionary measure to prevent any protests.
Polling is being held in 47 blocks in the first of the nine phase panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir amidst unprecedented security arrangements following general strike called by separatists and apprehension of militant attempt to disrupt the process.
Shops and business establishments were closed and traffic was off the road in downtown, civil lines and uptown Srinagar though few private vehicles, particularly two-wheelers, could be seen plying on some routes.
Business and other activities remained crippled in main business hubs of the city, including historic Lal Chowk, the nerve-centre of summer capital, Budshah Chowk, Regal Chowk, Maisuma, Hari Singh High Street (HSHS), Batmaloo, Moulana Azad Road, Residency Road and Dalgate.
All the gates of Jamia Masjid, stronghold of chairman of moderate Hurriyat Conference (HC) Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq, are locked since this morning. A large number of security forces and state police personnel have been deployed in the Jamia market and outside the worship place to prevent people from entering there.
Additional security forces, wearing bullet proof jackets and holding weapons and lathis in their hands, were seen patrolling the streets in Srinagar areas to prevent any untoward incident.
Joint Resistance Alliance (JRL), comprising of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq and Mohammad Yaseen Malik, had called for a general strike on Saturday against the panchayat polls. The separatists have also urged people to boycott the elections.
Hundreds of security forces and state police personnel were deployed to maintain law and order in major towns and tehsil headquarters in south Kashmir districts of Kulgam, Pulwama, Anantnag and Shopian, where business and other activities were paralyzed and traffic was off the roads in support of the strike.
Life also came to a grinding halt in central Kashmir districts of Budgam and Ganderbal in support of the strike called by separatists.
A report from Baramulla said life was crippled in this and other north Kashmir towns and tehsil headquarters, where shops were closed and traffic was off the road in support of the strike. Additional security forces have been deployed in entire north Kashmir to prevent any law and order problem.
Polling for the first phase started in all the 1303 polling stations spread over six Kashmir districts at 0800 hrs and will end at 1400 hrs. The areas were polling is being held in the valley in the first phase include Keran, Ramhal, Tarathpora, Teetwal and Tangdar in Kupwara; Gurez, Baktoor and Tulail in Bandipora; Kunzer, Uri, Parenpillan, Noorkah and Kandi-Belt Rafiabad in Baramulla; Gund in Ganderbal; Khanmoh in Srinagar and Khansahib in Budgam district.