Srinagar, India, Aug 5 (efe-epa).- The authorities enforced a strict security lockdown in Kashmir on Wednesday to prevent street protests on the first anniversary of the Indian government’s controversial move to revoke the disputed region’s autonomy.
Politicians have been strictly ordered not to leave their homes, and roads in Srinagar – Kashmir’s main city – have been blocked with spools of razor wire and steel barricades.
The government on Monday night ordered a two-day curfew ahead of the first anniversary of the Hindu nationalist government’s move to scrap the special status for Kashmir in August last year.
The administration said the restrictions were imposed following inputs that “separatists and Pakistan-sponsored groups (were) planning to observe Aug. 5 as a Black Day”.
However, there was a mounting criticism against the restrictions that virtually detained seven million people of the Muslim-majority valley in their houses on a day the government planned to celebrate its Kashmir achievements.
In a sudden move on late Tuesday, the authorities withdrew the curfew order saying the day “passed off with any untoward incident.”
But a new notification specified that the restrictions would remain in place because “of Covid-19 containment necessitated due to recent spike in cases” and there would be a ban on the movement of three or more people.
Gun-wielding security officers flooded the streets of Srinagar early Wednesday to enforce the restrictions on movement. Only those with government-issued curfew passes were allowed to move.
Police vehicles fitted with megaphones patrolled Srinagar streets with officers blaring out curfew warnings loudly and asking residents not to venture out.
“Last night’s order withdrawing curfew was hogwash. When it comes to collective punishment, (Kashmir) admin and police prefer not leaving a paper trail and yet ensure people are caged by imposing an unofficial curfew,” former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who completed a year in detention, wrote on Twitter.
Mufti’s Twitter handle is operated by her daughter Iltija while her mother remains detained in her house.
The Indian government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special rights and powers a year ago and divided the state into two federally administered territories ostensibly to spur development and bring peace to the region that has been battling three decades of an armed rebellion against the Indian rule.
The change last year, accompanied by a communication blackout, widespread restrictions, and mass arrests, has sparked deep anger and resentment among the Kashmiris.
Kashmir, one of the most militarized territories in the world, has been the subject of a decades-long sovereignty dispute between Pakistan and India since 1947.
The two countries, which have fought three wars, including two over Kashmir, claim the divided territory in its entirety but rule its parts. EFE-EPA