Curfew in parts of Kashmir ahead of revocation anniversary
Authorities clamped a curfew in many parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Tuesday, a day ahead of the first anniversary of India’s controversial decision to revoke the disputed region’s semi-autonomy.
Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, a civil administrator, said the security lockdown was clamped in the region’s main city of Srinagar in view of information about protests planned by anti-India groups to mark Aug. 5 as “black day.”
Police and paramilitary soldiers drove through neighborhoods and went to people’s homes warning them to stay indoors. Government forces, carrying assault rifles and in riot gear, erected steel barricades and laid razor wire across roads, bridges and intersections. They patrolled largely deserted streets in Srinagar and enforced restrictions on civilian movement.
The curfew will be enforced Tuesday and Wednesday, Choudhary said in a government order.
Scores of young men were detained in last few days in anticipation that they would organize anti-India protests in the region, a police officer said on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.
“A series of inputs have been received suggesting that separatist and Pakistan-sponsored groups are planning to observe August 5 as Black Day and violent action or protests are not ruled out,” he said.
Last year on Aug. 5, India’s Hindu-nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi downgraded Jammu-Kashmir state and divided it into two federally governed territories. Since then, New Delhi has brought in a slew of new laws which locals say are aimed at shifting the demographics in the Muslim-majority region, many of whom want independence from India or unification with Pakistan.
The status of Kashmir has been a key dispute between Pakistan and India since the two split after the end of British colonial rule. They each control part of Kashmir and have fought two wars over their rival claims.
Initially, the anti-India movement in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir was largely peaceful, but after a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown on dissent, Kashmiris launched a full-blown armed revolt in 1989.
After the Aug. 5 decision, Indian authorities enforced an information blackout and a harsh security clampdown in Kashmir for months. Thousands of Kashmiri youth, pro-freedom leaders and politicians who have traditionally supported Indian rule were arrested. Hundreds of them are still incarcerated.
As some of the restrictions were eased, India enforced another harsh lockdown in March to combat the spread of the coronavirus, deepening the social and economic crisis in the restive region.
Human Rights Watch asked that India reverse its “abusive policies” in the region and said it was dismayed India persisted with “its repression of Kashmiri Muslims” despite the pandemic forcing the world to address discrimination and inequality.
“Indian government claims that it was determined to improve Kashmiri lives ring hollow one year after the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional status,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, the global rights group’s South Asia director, in the statement made Tuesday. “The authorities instead have maintained stifling restraints on Kashmiris in violation of their basic rights.”
Meanwhile, the president of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir urged the international community to save Kashmiri people from what he described as “imperialism” and said Kashmiris were being made homeless in their own homeland.
Sardar Masood Khan commented in a video message Tuesday a day after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Defense Minister Pervez Khattak visited a frontier village along the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
Indian and Pakistani soldiers have traded near-daily gunfire along the highly militarized line for over a year, killing dozens of civilians and soldiers on both sides. Each often accused the other for violating their 2003 ceasefire accord.
The Indian military said Pakistani soldiers fired mortars and gunfire at Indian positions in southern Poonch district early Tuesday. The army said Indian soldiers retaliated. No casualties were reported and there was no immediate comment from Pakistan.