The Jammu and Kashmir police arrested 21 persons including an artist and a cleric in the Valley for expressing support and solidarity with the Palestinians, condemning the ongoing Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.
Besides the arrests, the J&K police also took a south Kashmir-based religious preacher, Sarjan Barkati, into preventive custody Friday.
A police source said Barkati was taken into preventive custody for violating Covid-19 lockdown. However, officials privy to the case said the preacher’s detention came after a video of him extending support to Palestine surfaced on social media.
The crackdown came a day after protests were held in Srinagar’s Padshahi Bagh and Safa Kadal areas, where a small group burnt an Israeli flag and drew graffiti in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and Jerusalem. The families of those detained alleged that the police conducted midnight raids against the protestors, according to The Hindu.
Among those arrested included Kashmir-based artist Mudasir Gul, who was held for painting pro-Palestinian graffiti on a bridge in Srinagar on Friday. The artwork showed a woman wearing a scarf made of a Palestinian flag and a tear tricking from her eye, with the words: “WE ARE PALESTINE.” The graffiti was later painted over by police.
“We are a professional force and are sensitive to public anguish. But J&K police has a legal responsibility to ensure law and order as well. It, however, would not allow cynical encashment of the public anger to trigger violence, lawlessness and disorder on the streets of Kashmir,” said IG Kashmir, Vijay Kumar.
J&K Police warned that it was keeping a very close watch on elements attempting to leverage the ‘unfortunate situation’ in Palestine to disturb public peace and order in Kashmir.