Kashmir kept locked down on Eid holiday

World | 13 Aug 2019

Indian security forces kept disputed Kashmir's biggest city of Srinagar largely locked down yesterday, on the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, to prevent any major protests against a decision that scrapped the Himalayan region's special rights.

Frustration is growing in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which is also claimed by Pakistan, over India's move last week to curtail autonomy for the state of Jammu and Kashmir, including a bar on non-residents buying property.

Hundreds of people shouting anti-India slogans spilled on to the streets following prayers in the neighborhood of Soura, the site of a big demonstration on Friday, but authorities sealed off the area and kept the protest localized.

"We want freedom, we are neither a part of India, nor Pakistan," said Asifa, an 18-year-old woman who was among the protesters after prayers at the shrine of Jinab Sahib. Prime minister Narendra Modi "is lying to his people that the removal of special status of Kashmir is good for us," she said. "We will resist it till our last breath."

The voices of protesters chanting anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans grew louder as the sound of helicopters swelled overhead, among at least three aircrafts that hovered over Srinagar to keep vigil.

"In Srinagar, keeping in view the possibility of terrorists, militants and mischievous elements trying to disturb public order and peace, reasonable restrictions were imposed on large gatherings in sensitive areas," the Home Ministry said.

People still gathered in mosques in large numbers yesterday, it added, giving media a list of attendees at mosques outside Srinagar that ran into tens of thousands.

The clampdown on communications remained in place for an eighth day, with no regular Internet, mobile phone or fixed-line links working.

More than 300 regional leaders and activists remain in various forms of detention.

Residents said the rapt silence on the city's streets was like nothing they had ever experienced before on the festival. Even the best-known areas, such as the city square, Lal Chowk, that would otherwise be crowded with people, were empty.

Pakistan's government, meanwhile, called for the festival to be observed in a "simple manner" this year, to express solidarity with Kashmiris living on the Indian side of the divided region.

Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi traveled to Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, to offer Eid prayers at a mosque there.

Leaders in Kashmir had warned of a backlash against the loss of autonomy.


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