Jammu and Kashmir police cracked down separatist groups, especially the Jamaat –e-Islami, arresting its local chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz and 150 other activists, as the central government reinforced the strength of paramilitary forces in the state on Saturday.
Yasin Malik, leader of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, was among those detained, the officers said.
Raids on the separatist groups, which led to a shutdown strike in parts of Srinagar, began late Friday when the police, backed by the army, started arresting their members in central, north and south Kashmir, officers in the police and security agencies said.
The Jamaat-e-Islami termed the moves a “well-designed conspiracy to pave way for further uncertainty in the region”.
“During the intervening night of 22-23 February, 2019 police and other forces…launched mass arrest drive and raided many houses in the Valley wherein dozens of central and district level leaders have been arrested,” the group said in a statement.
Former civil servant Shah Faesal, who resigned last month, tweeted about the unease the situation had given rise to. “Prime Minister@narendramodi,” he tweeted. “We haven’t slept last night and we don’t know whether we will wake up alive tomorrow. People are avoiding movement and hoarding essential items; it is a doomsday feeling. Can somebody tell us what is happening here. Kashmir wants peace.”
“There is panic among people that something is going to happen so people are stocking petrol and diesel; the sale is different from routine days,’’ said Arshid Khan, a salesman at a petrol pump in the Dalgate neighbourhood.
The Centre also despatched an additional 100 companies of paramilitary forces, or around 10,000 men, to the Kashmir valley, ostensibly ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.