Curfew in parts of Kashmir ahead of revocation anniversary
SRINAGAR, India — Authorities imposed a curfew in many parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Tuesday, a day ahead of the first anniversary of India’s decision to revoke the disputed region’s semi-autonomy.
Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, a civil administrator, said the security lockdown was imposed in the region’s main city of Srinagar because of information about protests planned by anti-India groups to mark Aug. 5 as “Black Day.”
Police and paramilitary soldiers drove through neighborhoods and went to people’s homes, warning them to stay indoors. Government forces, carrying assault rifles and wearing riot gear, erected steel barricades and laid razor wire across roads, bridges and intersections. They patrolled largely deserted streets in Srinagar and restricted civilian movement.
Scores of young men have been detained in the last few days in anticipation that they would organize anti-India protests in the region, a police officer said on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.
“A series of inputs have been received suggesting that separatist and Pakistan-sponsored groups are planning to observe Aug. 5 as Black Day, and violent action or protests are not ruled out,” he said.
Late Tuesday, authorities lifted a curfew in Srinagar but said restrictions on public movement, transport and commercial activities would continue because of the coronavirus pandemic. Choudhary said in a new government order that the decision to remove the curfew was taken because Tuesday remained “incident-free.”
In an earlier order, government had announced a curfew for Tuesday and today.
Last year on Aug. 5, India’s Hindu-nationalist-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped Jammu-Kashmir of its statehood and divided it into two federally governed territories. Since then, New Delhi has brought in a slew of new laws that residents say are aimed at shifting the demographics in the Muslim-majority region, where many want independence from India or unification with Pakistan.
The status of Kashmir has been a key dispute between Pakistan and India since the two split after the end of British colonial rule. They each control part of Kashmir and have fought two wars over its status.
Initially, the anti-India movement in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir was largely peaceful. But after a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown on dissent, Kashmiris launched a full-blown armed revolt in 1989.
Following the Aug. 5 move, Indian authorities enforced an information blackout and a harsh security clampdown in Kashmir for months. Thousands of Kashmiri youth, pro-freedom leaders and politicians who have traditionally supported Indian rule were arrested. Hundreds are still incarcerated.