Tensions Simmer in Kashmir as Eid Prayers Held

Published August 10th, 2019 - 04:56 GMT
Supporters of the Pakistani political and Islamic party Jammat-e-Islami (JI) shout slogans as they march during an anti-Indian protest rally in Islamabad  (AFP)
Supporters of the Pakistani political and Islamic party Jammat-e-Islami (JI) shout slogans as they march during an anti-Indian protest rally in Islamabad (AFP)
Highlights
"Every time we have embraced India, they have cut our throats," read a handwritten poster at one mosque, which also urged Kashmiris not to sell land and to hold protests after Eid prayers on Monday.

Anger continues to mount in India-administered Kashmir against New Delhi's decision to revoke the special status of the Muslim-majority region, residents and officials said, although authorities eased some curbs to allow people to offer Friday prayers.

Seeking to tighten its grip on the region also claimed by neighbouring Pakistan, India this week scrapped the state's right to frame its own laws and allowed non-residents to buy property there.

Since Sunday telecoms links have been suspended, at least 300 leaders have been detained and public gatherings banned, effectively confining residents to their homes in the revolt-torn region.

Some media outlets have reported that several people were taken to Srinagar's main hospital for treatment for pallet injuries.

According to The Wire, doctors and nurses at the SMHS hospital said on Thursday that 13 victims were brought in on August 6 and another eight on August 7 with pellet injuries to their eyes and other parts of their bodies. 

TV images showed dozens of people walking on the streets of Srinagar, the region's main city, for the first time this week to offer prayers at mosques guarded by police.

"Every time we have embraced India, they have cut our throats," read a handwritten poster at one mosque, which also urged Kashmiris not to sell land and to hold protests after Eid prayers on Monday.

Leaders in Kashmir had warned that scrapping the special status would be seen as an act of aggression against the people of the Himalayan state, where more than 50,000 people have died in a 30-year revolt against Indian rule.

There have been no major protests, barring sporadic instances of stone-throwing in the last few days, but several residents and a police official told Reuters resentment against the decision was building.

"There is a lull right now ... the situation can go out of control," said the police official, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.


Policemen in riot gear were posted every few metres around the Jama Mosque in Srinagar's old quarter. One officer said he faced regular attacks from young people throwing stones.

In New Delhi, however, Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told a news briefing that Kashmir was calm and the inconvenience expressed by its people was "very temporary."

Separately, he told Reuters, "Just outside Srinagar things have really come back to normal."

Thousands of additional paramilitary troops flooded into Kashmir, already one of the world's most militarised regions, ahead of Monday's announcement of the change in constitutional status.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government also broke up the state into two federal territories, a step regional leaders decried as a further humiliation.

In a narrow alley behind the Srinagar mosque, 32-year-old Tariq Ahmed warned of a backlash against the Indian government once it relaxed the curbs on movement in the city.

"If they [authorities] have used force on unarmed Kashmiris, we will also react with force," said Ahmed, a university worker.

"We have no faith in the Indian government. They should let us protest. Otherwise, the only option is armed struggle."

Modi's decision will benefit Kashmiris and the government would move to create more economic opportunities, he said in a speech on Thursday.

"They are thinking that they will be able to keep people suppressed," said Owais, 29, a government employee who gave only his first name. "This strategy will backfire."

“India cheated us. But now is the time we should fight back,” one was heard saying to a group of people on a road.

For many, India’s decision is a breach of trust and an attack on Kashmir’s identity.

Several residents spoke with journalists anonymously for fear of reprisals from Indian authorities.

In the days before the announcement in parliament, the region was locked down. Since then, residents have expressed rage and despair and there is a sense that the region won’t remain quiet for long.

“Once the restrictions are lifted, people will take to the streets. It’s a pressure-cooker situation and it will burst any time,” said Bashir Ahmad.

This sentiment was echoed by many youths in Srinagar.

“As far as the situation is concerned, the worst is still to come,” said 21-year-old Bilal Rahi.

Pakistan and China challenged the divisive move by India to bring Kashmir under its direct control, sending tensions soaring between the nuclear neighbours.

New Delhi imposed a massive security lockdown in the state to quell any unrest.

Beijing criticised India's decision to carve out a separate administrative territory in Buddhist-dominated Ladakh region. 

"India has continued to undermine China's territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its domestic law," foreign ministry spokeswomen Hua Chunying said. 

Pakistan and China both have long-running boundary disputes with India.

India-administered Kashmir has been in the grip of a rebellion against Indian rule since 1989 and analysts have warned the scrapping of its autonomous status could trigger fresh unrest. 

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed on Tuesday to challenge India's decision at the UN Security Council. Khan also accused Indian Prime Minister Modi of violating international law in pursuit of an anti-Muslim agenda in India. 

Pakistan's military added that it "firmly stands" by Kashmiris following a meeting of the army's top commanders.

Modi said the downgrading of India-administered Kashmir from a state to a federally controlled territory will help end decades of terrorism and separatism incited by Pakistan.

In a nationally broadcast speech on Thursday, Modi described changes imposed this week by his government in Kashmir as historic and assured its residents that the situation will soon become normal.

Modi said the "mainstreaming" of the Kashmiri people with the rest of the nation would expedite development and create new jobs with investment from public and private companies.

He accused Pakistan of using the past arrangement "as a weapon to incite people of the region against India" and said he has complete faith that the new system will be able to free Kashmir from "terrorism and separatism."

This article has been adapted from its original source.


Copyright © 2019 TRT World

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