Kashmir's largest city locked down for Eid to prevent protests


Indian authorities have kept disputed Kashmir's biggest city of Srinagar largely locked down for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Indian security forces have kept disputed Kashmir's biggest city of Srinagar largely locked down for 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 neighbourhood of Soura, the site of a big demonstration on Friday, but authorities largely sealed off the area and kept the protest localised.

"We want freedom, we are neither a part of India, nor Pakistan," said Asifa, an 18-year-old woman who was among those protesting after prayers at the shrine of Jinab Sahib in Soura.

"We want freedom": protesters shout slogans in Srinagar.
"We want freedom": protesters shout slogans in Srinagar.

"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."

Eyewitnesses reported sporadic incidents of stone-pelting of security forces on Sunday and Monday morning.

The clampdown on communications remained in place for an eighth day, with no regular Internet, mobile phone or fixed-line links working. Virtually no independent information has emerged from elsewhere in the Kashmir Valley but Srinagar in the past week.

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

Muslims offer Eid al-Adha prayers at Jama Masjid in New Delhi, India.
Muslims offer Eid al-Adha prayers at Jama Masjid in New Delhi, India.

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.

Shops were shut, their shutters and walls carrying anti-India graffiti including, "Go India Go Back" and "We Want Freedom".

Several paramilitary and police officials referred to the restrictions as a "curfew" in conversations with Reuters' reporters. India's official stance is that there are restrictions, but no curfew.

The restrictions in Srinagar were the city's tightest ever, two paramilitary officials told Reuters on Monday.

Police and troops, many wearing heavy riot gear, dotted silent streets where checkpoints had been added around midnight, with more concertina wire laid out to create barricades.

Leaders in Kashmir had warned of a backlash against stripping autonomy from a territory where militants have battled Indian rule for nearly 30 years, leading to the deaths of more than 50,000 people.

Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with India and suspended trade in anger at Delhi's latest move.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has long campaigned to abrogate Kashmir's special privileges in the constitution, which it sees as a measure of appeasement to Muslims that hinders development.

The BJP and even some top opposition leaders have welcomed the decision to absorb Kashmir fully into India, and it has brought Modi support across the country.

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