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Security clampdown in Kashmir on anniversary of lost autonomy

Security clampdown in Kashmir on anniversary of lost autonomy

DPA
Srinagar
Indian-administered Kashmir was placed under strict lockdown on Wednesday amid a heavy deployment of forces as the region marked a year since it was stripped of its special status within India’s federal system.
The clampdown saw the closure of markets and businesses, suspension of public transport, and restrictions on gatherings and movement of people, grinding daily life to a halt.
Hundreds of police and paramilitaries patrolled streets in the main city of Srinagar while there were curfew-like restrictions in several neighbourhoods in the city’s old quarters to prevent demonstrations, local police officers said.
The security forces were on guard to foil militant attacks and plans by separatist groups to stage violent protests, however the situation remained largely peaceful on Wednesday.
“A year ago we witnessed how a majoritarian govt mutilated & robbed Jammu and Kashmir in broad daylight. Seasons may have changed but the betrayal will never be forgiven or forgotten,” read a tweet on former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s Twitter account.
Mufti’s account is being managed by her daughter Iltija following her detention last year.
In a controversial move on August 5, 2019, the government of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) abrogated laws that gave the predominantly Muslim region greater autonomy, including its own constitution and flag, and exclusive rights to Kashmiris to own land.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir was also split into two federally administered territories.
Hundreds of local politicians and activists were detained and thousands of troops flown in to enforce a clampdown on movement and communications, in order to prevent any violent protest or backlash.
Both India and Pakistan claim the Himalayan region and each controls a part. They have fought two wars over Kashmir.
India-administered Kashmir has seen a deadly secessionist movement since the early 1980s and the Modi government says its special status is partly to blame for this, along with Islamabad’s aiding and abetting of Kashmiri rebels, a charge the latter denies.
In Pakistan thousands of people comprising political leaders, activists and lawyers joined rallies in major cities to condemn what they called a “repressive Indian decision.”
President Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi led the biggest rally in the capital Islamabad where protesters chanted anti-India slogans and called on the global powers to intervene.
Prime Minister Imran Khan led a rally in the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and urged the world to intervene against the move that he said made 8 million Muslims in Kashmir prisoners in their own homes.
Among Kashmiris, there is widespread resentment of New Delhi’s move.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to bring rapid development to the region is yet to see results, partly hampered by the coronavirus outbreak.
Many politicians arrested around August 5, 2019, have been released, though some, including former chief minister Mufti, remain in detention.
Curbs on communications, including those on mobile and internet services, have been largely lifted, although the ban on 4G services remains.
A recently published report said the months of clampdown led to human rights abuses and draconian security laws were used to stifle dissent. Several petitions challenging the government’s move are with the Supreme Court.
The economy of the region has taken a hit, particularly the tourism industry, its backbone, small businessmen and traders, while unemployment remains at an unprecedented high.
Supporters of the Modi government say this is a temporary blip and maintain that the move to integrate the region with the rest of the country will hasten its development. They point out that militant attacks are at an all time low.

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