Indian Kashmir in Lock Down as Communication Links Remain Cutoff

Large parts of Kashmir remained cut out from the rest of India and the world as a communications blackout entered the eighth day, with paramilitary troops enforcing restrictions that has kept citizens mostly indoors.

Television footage showed barbed wire barricades set up on the streets of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, where gun-toting security were guarding the streets. Some of the restrictions, including one that prohibits assembly of people, were eased at the weekend, according to local officials and some media reports, ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid.

Internet and phone lines, remain cut off and prominent political leaders are under arrest. Authorities are putting up 300 public telephone booths for communication, the government said in a statement, while banks started reopening on Saturday, according to Shahid Choudhary, the administration’s head in Srinagar.

Indian authorities imposed a lock down fearing massive protests after the administration led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended Kashmir’s seven decade-old autonomy in a surprise move last week. In one swoop, the government pushed through a legislation which made the region a centrally administered one and ended its ability to draft own laws except in the areas of communications, defense, finance and foreign affairs. Indian citizens living outside the state can now own land in Kashmir.

Modi while addressing nation on Thursday, said people will not face difficulties in celebrating Eid and the move will bring prosperity to the region. He hailed a “new era” in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, while his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan warned of “genocide” once the curfew is lifted.

On Sunday, Amit Shah, India’s home minister said the move will bring an “end to terrorism” in the state.

Kashmir has been the main flash point between India and Pakistan since the British left the subcontinent in 1947. Both countries claim Kashmir as theirs and have fought two of their three wars over the territory.

The situation remains tense in the restive region with footage from the BBC and Al Jazeera showing protesters marching on the streets against the move and clashing with security forces.

Responding to the development, Pakistan announced a series of measures to oppose what it called “unilateral and illegal actions” by India. Islamabad downgraded diplomatic relations and suspended bilateral trade with India and said it will take the matter to the United Nations Security Council and ensure the army remains vigilant. India urged Pakistan to review these.

At the weekend, Pakistan imposed altitude restrictions on foreign aircraft flying over Lahore. The relations between the two South Asian rivals are already under strain following the February airstrikes by India and Pakistan’s retaliation on shooting down an Indian jet. India’s initial airstrikes were in response to a suicide bombing in Kashmir that killed 40 paramilitary troops.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting armed extremists in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charges and says it offers only moral support to separatists.

–With assistance from Bibhudatta Pradhan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anirban Nag in Mumbai at anag8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Unni Krishnan, Arijit Ghosh

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.