Independence Day under gun shadow in Srinagar

Srinagar: The speculation that Home Minister Amit Shah will unfurl the Tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar came to a naught with Governor Satya Pal Malik presiding over the I-Day ceremony at the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium.

Had Shah hoisted the flag at Lal Chowk, the messaging and optics of such an action can well be imagined.

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 without 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. 

Mainstream political leaders were not present at 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.

Independence Day celebrations were held in all the district headquarters. But with a total clampdown in Kashmir Valley, there were hardly any people on roads, and no vehicles plied as well. Educational institutions and business establishments remained closed.

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