Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Kashmir: Troops allow Muslims to walk to mosque for Eid amid lockdown

All communications and the internet remain cut off and the streets deserted

A security person stands guard at a deserted street during a security lockdown in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. AP
A security person stands guard at a deserted street during a security lockdown in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. AP

Some Muslims in Indian-administered Kashmir were allowed by troops to walk to the mosque to pray for Eid Al Adha on Monday, despite a security lockdown.

Communications and the internet remained cut off and the streets deserted after the authorities enforced a clampdown because of protests against the Indian government's surprise announcement last week that it would revoke the territory's special status.

It was semi-autonomous before the ruling, but is now a union state, meaning it is governed by the Indian central government.

In the capital Srinagar, hundreds of worshippers gathered on a street and chanted, “We want freedom” and “Go India, Go back,” AP reported, in a protest that ended peacefully.

There were reports that the Himalayan region's biggest mosque, the Jama Masjid, was ordered closed and people were only allowed to pray in smaller mosques so no big crowds could gather.

Kashmir police said in a tweet that Eid festival prayers “concluded peacefully in various parts of the Valley. No untoward incident reported so far”.

In Pakistan, people gathered in mosques on Monday to offer special prayers for Eid, with the government calling for the festival to be observed in a "simple manner" this year to express solidarity with Kashmiris.

Tradition dictates that Muslims slaughter livestock during the second Eid, but surrounded by troops, barbed wire, barricades and with few ATMs dispensing money, it was near impossible for most residents to observe the holiday.

Residents said the security crackdown, which was expected to last until Thursday, had made them too afraid to celebrate.

India’s Foreign Ministry shared photos of people visiting mosques but did not say where the photos were taken within the region.

Vijay Keshav Gokhale, the ministry’s top diplomat, said most mosques were open but some were closed for security reasons.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir, and the first one ended in 1948 with a promise of a UN-sponsored referendum in the territory. It was not held.

Thousands of extra troops were sent to the region before India’s Hindu nationalist-led government said last Monday that it was revoking Kashmir’s special constitutional status.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an address to the nation that the move would free the territory of “terrorism and separatism”, and accused Indian arch-rival Pakistan of causing unrest.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both. Rebels have been fighting Indian rule in the part it administers for decades.

Restrictions, security lockdowns and information blackouts are nothing new for Kashmiris, after months of clampdowns in the region during massive public uprisings against Indian rule in 2008, 2010 and 2016.

But this is the first time that landline phones have been cut off, intensifying hardship.

Frequent separatist calls for general strikes and protests are routinely met with security sieges.

Kashmiris have learnt ways to survive the hardships of incarceration inside their homes.

Residents are also used to stockpiling essentials, a practice usually undertaken during harsh winter months when roads and communications lines often remain snapped.

More than a million people live in the area under siege in Srinagar.

Residents have begun to face shortages of food and other necessities as shops remain closed and public movement is restricted.

Parents have struggled to entertain their children who are unable to go to school. Patients have had shortages of prescription drugs.

Authorities said they have made cash available in ATMs so that residents could take out money to buy essentials for Eid.

Updated: August 13, 2019 03:21 AM

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