Sporadic protests as Indian Kashmir seethes under clampdown
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[August 07, 2019]
By Devjyot Ghoshal and Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Thousands of
Indian security forces kept a lid on protests in disputed Kashmir on
Wednesday, helped by the continued suspension of telephone and internet
services after the Himalayan region's special status was scrapped this
Neighbors China and Pakistan, which both claim parts of the region, have
voiced fierce opposition to India's move dropping a constitutional
provision that had allowed the country's only Muslim-majority state to
make its own laws.
Streets in the region's main city of Srinagar were deserted for a third
day, with almost all shops shut, barring some chemists. Armed federal
police manned mobile checkpoints across the city, limiting people's
Knots of young protesters threw stones at soldiers, police and a witness
said, amid anger over the telecoms clampdown that began on Sunday.
"These (protests) are mostly localized because of the heavy troop
deployment," said a police officer who sought anonymity because he was
not authorized to speak to media, adding that police used tear gas and
pepper spray to scatter the protesters.
A witness described an episode of hours of stone-throwing on Tuesday in
the Old Barzullah area near the city center, saying, "I saw around 100
boys, in small groups, pelting stones."
He added, "The police fired tear gas to beat them back."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government detained regional leaders and
heads of separatist groups before Monday's announcement, which also
split the state into two federal territories to ensure greater control.
India has been fighting an armed revolt in Kashmir since 1989, which it
blames Pakistan for stoking. In reply, Islamabad says it only gives
moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle
[to top of second column]
A woman, who was protesting against the scrapping of special
constitutional status for Kashmir, argues with people who were
celebrating the removal of the special status, during a gathering in
New Delhi, India, August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
All telephone, television, and internet connections stayed severed.
By night, police vans had patrolled the streets, with loudspeakers
warning residents to stay indoors.
South Kashmir, the epicenter of the insurgency in recent years, was
completely locked down, said a state government official who visited
"The highway was deserted, except for some trucks and buses carrying
laborers out of the valley," added the official, who asked not to be
Local authorities have not declared a curfew, but instead clamped
down on non-essential travel and gatherings of four or more,
effectively keeping restive people in their homes.
Officials of emergency services, such as hospitals and the fire
department, said their staff were also frequently stopped at
checkpoints, with access sometimes blocked.
The principal of Srinagar's Government Medical College, which runs
the state’s largest hospital network, comprising about 3,500 beds,
has to personally visit district officials to coordinate services or
seek approvals, a hospital official said.
"The principal doesn’t have any means of communication," added the
official, who asked not to be identified. "Police stations have been
given satellite phones but not him. That shows their (government’s)
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Clarence Fernandez)
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