Srinagar: A strike called today by separatist groups in protest against a proposed “composite township” for displaced Kashmiri Hindus, or Pandits, disrupted normal life in the Valley.
Shops, business establishments, educational institutions and petrol pumps in Srinagar remained shut, while government offices and banks witnessed thin attendance, officials said.
Public transport was off the roads while private cars and cabs plied in only a few areas in the city, officials said, adding that the situation was similar in other districts in the Valley.
On Friday, demonstrations were held in certain areas of Srinagar against the proposed townships. Police resorted to tear gas shelling as dozens of protesters, led by separatist Yasin Malik, broke police cordons and entered the Lal Chowk area in the centre of the city. Eight policemen were injured during the clashes, according to officials.
Several Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs, who continued to live in the Valley even after the exodus, have also joined their voice against separate townships.
Earlier this week, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had asked Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to identify land for “composite townships” for Kashmir Pandits who left the Valley when the first wave of militancy began 25 years ago. The proposal has raised questions on whether these townships will exclusively house rehabilitated Kashmiri Pandits, with separatists even drawing parallels to Israeli settlements in Palestine.
But Mr Sayeed, whose PDP runs a government in partnership with the BJP, has assured that he would not allow “Israeli-type settlements.”
About three lakh Pandits had left the Valley in the 1990s. Many of those who did return in 2007 under a government job scheme say they are not happy. They live in migrant colonies and do not have basic amenities like a ration card or even a voter ID card.