Indian government placed under house arrest the former chief ministers of Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK), Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, late Sunday night and imposed curfew-like restrictions in the restive region.
“There shall be no movement of public. All educational institutions shall also remain closed. There will be a complete bar on holding any kind of public meetings or rallies during the period of operation of this order. Identity cards of essential services officials will be treated as movement passes wherever required,” reads the Indian government order, but says “there is no curfew in place”.
According to Greater Kashmir and Indian media, authorities also suspended internet services on cellphones, a common tactic to prevent anti-India demonstrations from being organised and stop dissemination of news.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to chair a national security meeting today [Monday].
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Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to say that he was being placed under house arrest and that a similar process had already started for other leaders.
“I believe I’m being placed under house arrest from midnight tonight and the process has already started for other mainstream leaders. No way of knowing if this is true but if it is then I’ll see all of you on the other side of whatever is in store. Allah save us,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Please don’t take the law in to your own hands, please stay calm,” he appealed in another tweet.
A few moments before his tweet, Mehbooba Mufti, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party, expressed concerns that there would soon be an internet blackout and the imposition of a curfew.
“Hearing reports about internet being snapped soon including cellular coverage. Curfew passes being issued too. God knows what awaits us tomorrow. It’s going to be a long night,” she said.
“How ironic that elected representatives like us who fought for peace are under house arrest. The world watches as people and their voices are being muzzled in J&K. The same Kashmir that chose a secular democratic India is facing oppression of unimaginable magnitude. Wake up India,” she said in another tweet.
Threat to scrap occupied Kashmir’s special status
The two leaders, earlier in the day, had warned the Centre against abrogation of Article 35A and Article 370, which gives special status to Kashmiris.
National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, reading out a resolution adopted at a meeting of regional parties, said they have decided to send delegations to meet the president, the prime minister and leaders of various political parties to apprise them of the consequences of any attempt to abrogate Article 370 and Article 35A of the constitution or carry out delimitation of constituencies or trifurcating the state, reported India Today.
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The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India has consistently advocated an end to occupied Kashmir’s special constitutional status, which prevents outsiders from buying property there, arguing that such laws have hindered its ‘integration’ with the rest of India.
‘Stop the madness’
Meanwhile, a member of the Indian parliament, Shashi Tharoor, responded to Abdullah’s tweet by saying: “You are not alone. Every Indian democrat will stand with the decent mainstream leaders in Kashmir as you face up to whatever the government has in store for our country. Parliament is still in session and our voices will not be stilled.”
In another tweet, he asked “why would leaders be arrested overnight while having done no wrong?”
Indian journalist Barkha Dutt called the move to detain the leaders “unnecessary”.
“No matter what the decision in Jammu and Kashmir one simply cannot support placing elected representatives under house arrest. Place 144, bar rallies and meetings for law and order, but why not take them into confidence,” she said on Twitter.
Kashmiri journalist Gulam Jeelani appealed to “Delhi”, saying “if you have any sense of morality, please stop this madness in Kashmir”.
Earlier in the day, The Hindu reported that additional security troops had been placed in civilian installations and police stations and were put on “standby mode.”
The Indian publication said that a red alert had been sounded for officials in Kargil of the Ladakh region, an otherwise peaceful area.
“A security alert was already sounded across J&K, including Jammu region’s Pir Panjal and Chenab valleys,” reported The Hindu.
Furthermore, government employees’ leaves were cancelled along with scheduled examinations, according to an official.
Medical facilities were also put on an emergency mode, a senior official wishing to remain anonymous said. “Dozens of mobile bulletproof bunkers were installed across the Valley,” the report by The Hindu added.
The Indian government has admitted that 10,000 extra troops were sent to IoK a week ago. Media reports on Friday said a further 25,000 had been ordered there.
Kashmir politicians had long raised fears that the troops are sign that the Hindu nationalist government could carry out a threat to scrap occupied Kashmir’s special status under the constitution.