Govt bars India’s opposition from visiting Kashmir

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Kashmiris living in Bangalore protest on Aug. 24, 2019 to seek an end to the communication blockade in Indian-controlled Kashmir. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
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Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard near a temporary checkpoint during lockdown in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (AP)
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A security personnel stands guard in front of closed shops in Srinagar on August 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 25 August 2019

Govt bars India’s opposition from visiting Kashmir

  • The local administration had warned the opposition leaders on Friday evening not to come, as it might raise tensions
  • Communication blockades continue and people of the region are still cut off from the rest of the world

NEW DELHI: A delegation of senior opposition leaders, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, were detained at Srinagar Airport and sent back to New Delhi on Saturday, when they tried to visit the Kashmir Valley.

The 11-member delegation representing eight parties had planned to visit various parts of Kashmir to get a sense of the situation in the area.

The local administration had warned the opposition leaders on Friday evening not to come, as it might raise tensions.

As soon as Gandhi and other opposition leaders landed, security forces surrounded them and did not allow them to leave the airport.

There are reports that members of the media were manhandled when they tried to follow the politicians.

“We wanted to get a sense of what people are going through, but we weren’t allowed beyond the airport,” Gandhi said.

“People with us were mishandled, beaten. It’s clear that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir isn’t normal,” Gandhi told the media after returning from Srinagar.

The Communist Party of India in a statement said: “The denial of entry to well-known leaders of recognized political parties is an outright attack on the rights of political parties to meet and address their constituents.”

It added that the plan of the delegation was “to visit various parts of the state over the next few days, talking to various people and sections of the populace and shades of political opinion to ascertain the situation existing on the ground and the difficulties that they are encountering as a result of the shutdown in the Kashmir Valley.”

Kashmir has been under security lockdown since Aug. 5, the day when the Indian government rescinded Article 370 that gave a special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian constitution. 

Jammu and Kashmir Gov. Satyapal Malik doubted the opposition’s intentions and said that they wanted to “aggravate the situation” through their visit.

“If Rahul Gandhi wants to aggravate the situation and come here to repeat the lie he told in Delhi, it is not good,” Malik told the media in Srinagar.

The situation remains tense even three weeks after the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Schools, colleges and businesses remain shut despite a government’s order to reopen them.

Communication blockades continue and people of the region are still cut off from the rest of the world.

Traffic movement has increased on major roads but round the clock vigilance by security personnel continues with paramilitaries manning key strategic points across Srinagar.

“In south Kashmir — be it Pulwama, Shopian or Anantnag — life is at a standstill. People are living in fear because of the random arrests by the security forces,” Manzoor Ul Hassan, a Srinagar-based journalist said.

A government official in Srinagar told Arab News: “We have asked people to start resuming normal life but that is not happening.”


Curfew in parts of Kashmir ahead of anniversary of India stripping region’s autonomy 

Updated 4 min 53 sec ago

Curfew in parts of Kashmir ahead of anniversary of India stripping region’s autonomy 

  • Security lockdown in Srinagar in view of information about protests planned by 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.

SRINAGAR: Authorities clamped a curfew in many parts of Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday, a day ahead of the first anniversary of India’s controversial decision to revoke the disputed region’s semi-autonomy.
Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, a civil administrator, said the security lockdown was clamped in the region’s main city of Srinagar in view 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 erected steel barricades and laid razor wire across roads, bridges and intersections.
The curfew will be enforced Tuesday and Wednesday, Choudhary said in a government order.
“A series of inputs have been received suggesting that separatist and Pakistan-sponsored groups are planning to observe August 5 as Black Day and violent action or protests are not ruled out,” he said.
Last year on Aug. 5, India’s Hindu-nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi downgraded Jammu-Kashmir state and divided it into two federally governed territories. Since then, New Delhi has brought in a slew of new laws which locals say are aimed at shifting the demographics in the Muslim-majority region, many of whom 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 their rival claims.
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.
After the Aug. 5 decision, 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 of them are still incarcerated.
As some of the restrictions were eased, India enforced another harsh lockdown in March to combat the spread of the coronavirus, deepening the social and economic crisis in the restive region.
Human Rights Watch asked that India reverse its “abusive policies” in the region and said it was dismayed India persisted with “its repression of Kashmiri Muslims” despite the pandemic forcing the world to address discrimination and inequality.
“Indian government claims that it was determined to improve Kashmiri lives ring hollow one year after the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional status,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, the global rights group’s South Asia director, in the statement made Tuesday. “The authorities instead have maintained stifling restraints on Kashmiris in violation of their basic rights.”