Lal Chowk, the commercial nerve center of Kashmir’s main city Srinagar, observed a shutdown on Wednesday as a delegation of foreign envoys, including ambassadors and diplomats from the European Union, arrived in the city.
Markets in the city’s central hub were shut and traffic maintained a thin movement.
Several parts of Srinagar’s downtown also remained shut while government forces’ personnel were deployed in the Nowhatta area. The security bandobast was heavy and a large number of the government forces’ personnel patrolled the city.
Shopkeepers were seen sitting outside the closed shutters in small groups in downtown. “Today is hartal because a delegation is coming from outside,” one of the shopkeepers said, “so that they can see what is happening in Kashmir and understand what we want.”
An auto-rickshaw driver, who was plying on road, reiterated the same. “They also removed bunkers for their visit,” he claimed, as he drove past rubbles. “They want to show a false picture of Kashmir.”
The delegation led by Ugo Astuto, an EU ambassador, arrived in Kashmir on a two-day visit and is scheduled to meet government-picked delegations.
This is the third visit of foreign envoys since the limited-autonomy of the erstwhile state was abrogated in August 2019.
Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, called this visit a “guided tour” while the Jammu and Kashmir Ittihadul Muslimeen (JKIM) president Maulana Masroor Ansari termed the delegation’s visit to Kashmir as a “futile” move.
Prior to their arrival, scores of government forces’ bunkers and barricades were dismantled across the city.
The delegation will be reportedly meeting civil society members in Budgam today and also touring a lake and a historic mosque.