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Kashmir-Economy-Lockdown

India imposes curfew in Kashmir on first anniversary after autonomy stripped

Thousands of security personnel have been deployed in the Kashmir Valley, one year after the region lost its autonomy
Thousands of security personnel have been deployed in the Kashmir Valley, one year after the region lost its autonomy © Murali Krishnan

The authorities have imposed a curfew across Indian-administered Kashmir as the region marks a year since its autonomy was revoked.

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With security stepped up on the first anniversary of the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, a village headman was critically injured by armed gunmen in Kulgam in south Kashmir.

In another incident, militants attacked a police party in Pulwama district injuring two officers but both are said to be stable, according to police sources.

State authorities have ordered the imposition of  restrictions in the Kashmir Valley, following intelligence reports suggesting that "Pakistan-sponsored groups" were planning to observe 5 August as a "Black Day" and the area could witness violent protests endangering life and property.

Police vehicles patrolled the main city of Srinagar with periodic announcements on megaphones directing residents to remain indoors. Barbed-wire and steel barricades have been placed on main roads in Srinagar, the summer capital as thousands of government troops fanned across the city and surrounding villages.

“We have lived in this way for over a year now. Every day is like a curfew and we have nothing to look forward to,” Majid Dar, a shopkeeper told RFI. “Our resolve will only get stronger.”

Tense and uncertain

In the 12 months since, the region has remained on edge. Communications are still slow, arrests are routine, and now the coronavirus pandemic threatens to throw Kashmir, and India, into an even deeper tailspin.

Last year on 5 August, New Delhi decided to abrogate Article 370 of the Indian constitution - which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir and downgraded the state into two federally governed territories.

Thousands of Kashmiri youth, pro-freedom leaders and politicians who have traditionally supported Indian rule were arrested. Hundreds of them are still incarcerated or in detention centers across the region without charge.

The Left parties demanded the release of all those detained since August 2019, the restoration of full communications to the region and the lifting of curbs to allow free movement of people.

A tight curfew has been imposed by authorities on the first anniversary of the revocation of Kashmir's autonomy.
A tight curfew has been imposed by authorities on the first anniversary of the revocation of Kashmir's autonomy. © Murali Krishnan

Kashmiris pay a high price

“Last year, the Modi Government made many tall promises about what this move would accomplish and how it would benefit India and the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja.

“A year later, the government’s promises stand exposed betraying the people of who continue to be caged and silenced,” they added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government insists that the revocation of the special status was needed to halt the conflict and boost economic development in Kashmir.

The impact of the government's actions over the past year on Kashmir's already fragile economy has been enormous, shuttering shops and small businesses.

“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," Meenakshi Ganguly from Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

"The authorities instead have maintained stifling restraints on Kashmiris in violation of their basic rights."

The Concerned Citizens Group, an activist organization led by former Indian finance minister Yashwant Sinha has demanded that Kashmiri farmers and businessmen be compensated for their economic losses, which the group attributes to the upheaval caused by the region losing its special status.

Observers point out that Kashmir will complete one year without 4G internet. It is one of the longest internet shutdowns in the world, surpassed only by Myanmar, which blocked internet in parts of Rakhine and Chin states in June last year and is yet to restore it.

 

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