Srinagar, India, August 5 (EFE).- India-administered Kashmir on Saturday woke up with the news of three Indian soldiers being killed by militants overnight and political leaders being put on house arrest as the region marks the fourth anniversary of its semi-autonomous status being revoked by New Delhi in a decision highly unpopular with locals.
The soldiers were killed in a clash with separatist militants in the Hallan area of the southern Kulgam district late on Friday, while the leader of regional opposition People’s Democratic Party – which opposes the abrogation special powers to the province and its bifurcation – was put under house arrest.
“I have been put under house arrest along with other senior PDP leaders. This comes after a midnight crackdown where scores of my party men were illegally detained in police stations,” Mehbooba Mufti, the former chief minister of the region and PDP president tweeted.
The anniversary was being marked in contrasting fashions as the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party – which heads the central government in New Delhi – organized events to celebrate what it called “an era of all-around development.”
Meanwhile the PDP’s plans to hold protests were thwarted by the arrests while its office in Srinagar was sealed and not even the staff was allowed to enter the premises, a party spokesman said in a statement.
“On one hand, giant hoardings calling upon Kashmiris to ‘celebrate’ the illegal abrogation of Article 370 (the article of the Indian constitution that granted special powers to Kashmir) have been put up across Srinagar, whereas brute force is being used to choke the actual sentiment of the people,” Mufti alleged, while urging India’s top court to intervene in the matter.
A five-judge constitutional bench at the Supreme Court of India, including its chief justice, started hearing a string of petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A on August 2.
The petitions were moved soon after the 2019 decision, but they had been pending since then.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped the region of its special constitutional status with the stated aim of fully “integrating” it with the country on August 5, 2019.
The special status constitutionally known as Article 370 and 35A provided the Himalayan region state subject laws and exclusive job rights.
The move taken amid unprecedented restrictions, strict communication blockade and mass arrests left the region degraded and divided into two federally ruled territories.
The 2019 decision was followed by the implementation of certain legislations like the domicile law, which gave rise to the speculations that New Delhi is trying to change the demography of India’s only Muslim-majority region, even though the government insists that the move is aimed at boosting economic development.
The subsequent years have witnessed a rise in the targeted killing of non-Kashmiris residing in the area as well as local religious minorities, particularly Hindus.
The picturesque region has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 when the British separated the subcontinent on religious lines.
A separatist armed rebellion has raged in the Indian portion of Kashmir for more than three decades resulting in the killings of thousands, mostly civilians.
India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism into its territory, a charge that Islamabad as repeatedly denied. EFE