Modi Reimposes Kashmir Clampdown a Year After Revoking Autonomy
Concertina wire forms a barrier on a street as a member of the security forces stands guard in front of a shuttered store in Srinagar. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Modi Reimposes Kashmir Clampdown a Year After Revoking Autonomy

Officials imposed sweeping curbs on movement and the internet in India’s portion of the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir ahead of the one-year anniversary of the revocation of seven decades of regional autonomy.

The capital Srinagar was placed under curfew on Tuesday and Wednesday amid fears of violent protests from separatists who oppose the ending of the special autonomous status for the Jammu and Kashmir territory, The Hindustan Times reported, citing an order by district magistrate Shahid Chaudhary.

On Aug. 5 last year a surprise move to make Kashmir a “union territory,” similar to India’s capital Delhi, gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s federal government complete control over the state’s local police machinery and administration. Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti remains in detention, which last week was extended until November. Many other leaders including former chief minister Omar Abdullah were freed after being held for several months.

More restrictions are expected across the rest of the region, news reports said.

“Apart from numerous other violations in Jammu and Kashmir, including limiting access to the Internet, hundreds remain detained under the draconian Public Safety Act,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, in a text message. “Clearly the authorities want to prevent peaceful protesters.”

Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party, tweeted a call for Mufti’s release.

Last year Home Minister Amit Shah announced the changed status of Indian Kashmir in the country’s parliament after imposing strict movement restrictions, cutting telephone and Internet connectivity, evacuating tourists and Hindu pilgrims, and arresting local political leaders. The yearlong shutdown has likely cost local businesses more than 400 billion rupees ($5.3 billion) with more than 500,000 jobs lost, The Print reported citing Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The move caused concerns in neighboring Pakistan and China, which share borders with Kashmir. While Pakistan had unsuccessfully raised the issue at the U.N., China had criticized the move.

Pakistan’s cabinet on Tuesday approved a new political map that claims control over the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir including areas governed by India. The map also claims the Himalayan Siachen glacier where the two armies have permanent bases and marks an area where China and India have boundary disputes as an ‘Undefined Frontier.’ India had in November released a map that had claimed parts of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

India’s foreign ministry released a statement late Tuesday saying the map’s assertions “have neither legal validity nor international credibility.”

On Monday Islamabad changed the name of its Kashmir Highway to Srinagar Highway and its army released a song in solidarity with the people of India-controlled Kashmir over the weekend. India and Pakistan have fought three major wars since independence, two of them over Kashmir, which is divided between the two and claimed by both.

China and India are currently engaged in their most tense border conflict in four decades in the Himalayan Ladakh region, which was carved out of Jammu & Kashmir state after India ended the region’s constitutional autonomy. Violent skirmishes along the Line of Actual Control in the region in June led to the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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