SRINAGAR: An independent lawmaker in Jammu and Kashmir has urged the state government and Army to end the siege in Kupwara where curfew-like restrictions have been clamped in around 20 villages over suspicion of presence of militants.

“There is no justification for continuing the crackdown for 18th consecutive day, despite ongoing chilly cold weather. Since the encounter started, security forces have created lot of problems for the inhabitants under the pretext of fighting militants," Engineer Abdul Rashid, who is the president of Awami Ittihad Party (AIP), said.

Reports said the Army and police have clamped curfew-like restrictions in Humandar, Manzhar, Manigah, Kashmiri-Manigah, Hajinakah, Behaksabha, Halmathpora, Gonipora, Bhatpora, Joktiyal, and Trumbnad villages of Kupwara. Four suspected militants have been so far killed in the area in the last month with the security agencies suspecting presence of more militants.

"Innocent population, left at the mercy of security forces, is suffering due to frequent frisking and searches by army and police. Since the start of the operation, they are subjected to frisking and identification parades almost every day,” Rashid said.

Reports said the locals, mostly youths, have been confined to their houses since the encounter started with the livestock of the poor villagers also suffering due to the shortage of fodder. “The education of children has also been badly affected due to continuous siege. It seems as if the Army wants to punish thousands of people for none of their fault, but to just to fulfil their ego and anger after death of the commanding officer in the area,” Rashid said.

A Colonel with Army's elite para commando unit was killed in an encounter with suspected militants on November 18 in Haihama forests of Kupwara near the Line of Control following which the Army and J&K police conducted search operations in the area.

The Army's top commander in Kashmir last week accused the locals of "shielding" the militants. "They enjoy the support of villagers and we don’t want to cause any collateral damage. Even when we killed a militant there, we exercised maximum restraint to avoid damage to the civilian property,” Lt Gen Satish Dua, who heads the Army's Srinagar-based 15 Corps, said last week.