Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Police have arrested as many as 21 persons from the Valley as part of the crackdown against people who have shown solidarity with Palestinians since past week.
A senior police official has confirmed the arrests following which the police issued a statement claiming that it will not allow elements to “leverage” the situation in Palestine to disturb peace in the region.
Amongst those arrested in the fresh crackdown is a young artist from Srinagar's Padshahi Bagh locality, Mudasir Gul, for making a pro-Palestine graffiti – “We are Palestine” – in the city, according to the pictures being circulated online. The graffiti was later covered with a black coat of paint.
One of the arrests has been made in South Kashmir's Shopian district, according to official sources.
Palestine is witnessing one of the worst attacks since 2014 by the Israeli forces which has evoked massive solidarity from Kashmir. Many in Kashmir held peaceful demonstrations as the West Asian territory has reported around 140 killings including of 39 children. People from the Valley also posted pro-Palestine updates like “We stand with Gaza”, expressing solidarity with people in the occupied territory.
A video showing an elderly lady from Kashmir praying for the end of oppression in Gaza was widely circulated on social media as well.
The police, in its statement, issued on Saturday said they are keeping a close watch on people associating with the Palestinian situation.
“J&K Police is keeping a very close watch on elements who are attempting to leverage the unfortunate situation in Palestine to disturb public peace and order in the Kashmir valley (sic),” the police said.
The statement said that the police would not allow “cynical encashment of the public anger to trigger violence, lawlessness and disorder on Kashmir streets”.
“Expressing opinion is a freedom but engineering and inciting violence on streets is unlawful. All irresponsible social media comments that results in actual violence and breaking of law including Covid protocol will attract legal action,” the statement added.
The police in South Kashmir have also arrested prominent religious preacher Sarjan Barkati after a video of him expressing solidarity with Palestinians surfaced online. Barkati's arrest comes six months after he was released from a four-year detention earlier in January.
The 40-year-old was arrested under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) in 2016 for allegedly leading protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani.
Protests have taken place in Kashmir on several occasions against the Israeli aggression on Gaza and occupied territories of the West Bank. In one of such anti-Israeli protests in 2014, a teenage youth was shot dead and many others were reportedly injured in South Kashmir's Khudwani area.
A faculty member from the social sciences department of the Kashmir University told NewsClick that there was no “hurt” involved in expressing solidarity, which makes the police action unwarranted.
“The solidarity is purely humanitarian and does not appear to have any message that could lead to disturbance of public order and the sentiment is similar to India's stated position vis a vis the Palestinian cause. The same has been expressed by leaders of the country including Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” he said.