Protests in support of Palestine broke out in Kashmir this week after tensions between Israel and Palestine escalated

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Police Saturday arrested 21 people for organising demonstrations in support of the Palestinian struggle.

The police said it is keeping a close watch on elements attempting to leverage the situation in Palestine to disturb peace and order in the Valley.

According to police sources, 21 people were arrested across Kashmir, including an artist who had made a pro-Palestine graffiti in Srinagar.

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.

“One FIR was lodged earlier this week on the basis of which police made the arrests on Friday and Saturday. Mr Barkati meanwhile has been taken into preventive custody after a video of him had appeared on social media. He was heard offering support to one of the two parties at conflict (Palestine). There is nothing wrong as such but there are elements who want to use the current crisis to stoke violence,” said a senior police officer requesting anonymity.

IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar said the police had arrested 21 people, including 20 in Srinagar and one in Shopian.

Sources in the J&K police department also said authorities were monitoring social media websites for content that intends to initiate violence on the streets of Kashmir. In a statement issued Saturday, the J&K Police said the force won’t “allow cynical encashment of the public anger to trigger violence”.

“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. 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, wouldn’t 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. IGP Kashmir urges cooperation of all citizens.,” the police statement said.