Indian authorities begin easing clampdown in Kashmir
By ASHOK SHARMA
NEW DELHI — Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir began restoring landline phone services on Saturday after a nearly two-week security crackdown and news blackout following a decision by India’s government to downgrade the Muslim-majority region’s autonomy.
Shahid Choudhary, a government administrator in Srinagar, the region’s main city, said restrictions were being lifted in most areas and government offices were open. He also said on Twitter that food and other supplies were available “in abundance.”
Police said restrictions on the movement of people were relaxed in several parts of the region.
Rohit Kansal, another administrator in Srinagar, said there were six to seven minor incidents of protests in areas which remained under a lockdown, suggesting clashes with security forces. He said that eight people suffered injuries, but they were in stable condition. He didn’t give other details.
Kansal told reporters that public transport buses had started operating in some rural areas in Indian-controlled Kashmir. He also said cellphone and internet services had resumed in some districts, but news reports said that happened only in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region, which was not threatened by anti-India protests.
Security forces that blanketed the region remained on high alert after hundreds of people took to the streets for an anti-India protest following Friday prayers in Srinagar.
The government had imposed the lockdown to avoid a violent reaction to its decision on Aug. 5 to downgrade the autonomy of the region. The decision by the Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi has raised tensions with Pakistan and touched off anger in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir.
There was a deadly exchange of gun and mortar firing between Indian and Pakistani forces Saturday across the militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between the archrivals. Both countries claim the Himalayan region in its entirety, and they have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.