Signs of normality return to Kashmir, but repression from India is still strict

For the first time in six days, India eased travel restrictions in parts of Srinagar on Saturday, and people flooded the streets of Kashmir's summer capital to buy provisions before the Muslim Eid-al-Adha party on Monday. .

But with public mobile, landline and internet connections still severed by authorities in most of India's state-controlled Jammu and Kashmir, many people were still struggling to make contact with relatives to plan the holiday.

And some landlords and municipal officials were left to clean the streets of Srinagar on Saturday, a day after police used tear gas and fired pellets to control a protest after Friday prayers over India's withdrawal of special rights to Muslim majority state.

Seeking to tighten control over the region, also claimed by neighboring Pakistan, New Delhi dismantled on Monday the state's right to frame its own laws and allowed non-residents to buy property there.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government also closed the rioted region, cutting off communications, detaining more than 500 political leaders and activists, and putting in place a “curfew” with numerous police and military blockades preventing many residents from moving.

Regional leaders have warned of a backlash in the region, where militants have been fighting Indian rule for nearly 30 years, leading to the deaths of more than 50 1,000 people.

Queues last for hours

Many people went to the few police officers who received cell phones. At a crossroads in the Nowhatta area of ​​Srinagar, a police official said about 78 people used their telephone on Saturday to contact relatives outside Kashmir.

Inside a meeting room on the second floor of the Srinagar District Administration Office, more than 100 people crowded around two cell phones to make calls out of the valley.

An employee there, who declined to be named, said 354 people registered their names to use the phones.

Babli, who gave only one name, rushed in to try to call her son and daughter, both in Delhi, whom she had not been able to talk to since the blackout began Sunday night.

“My serial number is 309, I don't know when I can talk to them,” she said.

Communications Blackout

Modi's Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata and even some of the leading opposition leaders welcomed the decision to fully absorb Kashmir in India, which brought him support across the country.

The BJP has long campaigned for the revocation of Kashmir's special privileges in the constitution, which it considers an appeasement for Muslims and an obstacle to their own development.

International rights groups, including Amnesty International, called on the Indian government to end the blackout.

The Indian Publishers Union issued a statement on Saturday saying it was impossible for journalists to cover events in Kashmir without internet access. "Transparency in the media has always been and should be India's strength, not fear," he said.

Arch-rival Pakistan, which claims Kashmir, has downgraded diplomatic ties with India and suspended the anger trade with its latest move. Pakistan said on Saturday it had canceled a bus linking Lahore with New Delhi, the last remaining public transport link between neighbors.

Russia said on Saturday the administrative changes in the region were made within India's constitutional framework, according to Reuters partner ANI.

But Pakistan said on Saturday it had obtained China's support to submit a motion to the United Nations Security Council condemning India's decision to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Source: Reuters

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