September 19, 2019
Latest News

Restrictions upped in Indian Kashmir as separatist call for protests

By Shah Abbas,

Srinagar, India, Aug 23 (efe-epa).- Authorities in India-administered Kashmir further tightened up restrictions in many parts of the disputed region and did not allow congregational Friday prayers in central mosques after separatists called for a protest march to a United Nations office in Srinagar.

It was the third week in a row that Friday prayers were not allowed in main mosques of the Kashmir Valley that has been in a grip of an unprecedented security lockdown since the Indian government’s abrupt decision on Aug 5 to end the autonomy of the region that is disputed between India and Pakistan.

Posters attributed to separatist leaders had called for a march to the office of UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan in Srinagar, the state’s main city, in protest against the controversial decision of stripping the state of its special status which is seen by many as a move to change the demography of the Muslim-majority region.

The purported posters from the Joint Resistance Leadership, an umbrella group of separatist politicians, were spotted at many places in Srinagar despite the fact that most of its top leaders and activists have either been arrested or detained in their homes.

The authenticity of the posters could not be verified because of the continuous information blockade and snapping of all communication lines that the Indian government has forced in the region.

An unending fear has gripped the idyllic Himalayan valley amid continuous hovering of military helicopters and drones and thousands of ground troops blocking entry points to Srinagar neighborhoods.

The region is facing heavy security clampdown since Aug 5 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government revoked the special constitutional position of the disputed region and bifurcated it into two federally-administered territories.

Normal life has been thrown out of gears with educational institutes, shops and other private business establishments closed since then.

Authorities earlier this week decided to open 774 of the total 6,000 middle schools in the valley but the presence of students attending classes was near zero.

Director School Education, Kashmir, M Younus Malik said they were hopeful that students will turn up to attend the schools in the coming days.

"The attendance of staff is satisfactory but the attendance of the students is discouraging,” Younus told EFE on sidelines of a press briefing in Srinagar.

Residents who have been confined to their homes for the last 19 days allege that government forces have erected barricaded roads and closed lanes and by-lanes almost everywhere in the valley even though authorities claim they have eased restrictions from around half of the region.

Reports from old Srinagar areas, the urban hub of anti-India rebellion, suggest that mild clashes have been taking place almost on daily basis between angry youth and the security forces.

But the government has dismissed this. "There is no law and order situation anywhere in Kashmir, and any stray incidents of stone pelting are dealt with accordingly,” Deputy Inspector Genera Police, Central Kashmir, V.K. Birdhi told reporters.

The valley is facing shortage of life saving drugs like insulin due to continuous restrictions and security clampdown.

Mansoor Ahmad, the owner of Eff Emm Trading Agency, one of the biggest medicine distributors in the valley, told EFE that they were facing shortage of many essential medicine supplies.

"We have not received any fresh consignment of insulin for more than two weeks now,” Mansoor said.“We have already placed fresh orders (from outside) but the markets are closed and no business is taking place anywhere. How can we receive our order even if it has reached Srinagar?”

The internet curfew and snapping of telephone lines have added to the woes of valley residents.

Worried families wait in long queues almost on daily basis at a government-sponsored telephone facility center to get a chance to speak to their kith and kin who are either studying or working outside.

"I have been here since two days now. But I have not been unable to make a call to my daughter who is a student at Aligarh Muslim University (in north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh),” Shahida Bano, a middle-aged woman, told EFE.

She strongly refuted the claims of the authorities that fixed line phones have been restored in the curfewed valley. “They (authorities) might have restored some lines of VIPs but not of common people,” Bano said.

Other parts of the Muslim-majority region divided between India and Pakistan by means of a de-facto border, the Line of Control (LoC) since 1947, are also facing unprecedented restrictions and communication blockade.

However, life has almost returned to normal in the Hindu-dominated areas of Jammu.

Tension between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two wars over Kashmir since 1947, has also risen along the LoC amid intermittent border clashes between the armies of the two countries. EFE-EPA

sa/ssk

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