By Shah Abbas
Srinagar, India, Aug 4 (efe-epa).- The government imposed a strict curfew across Indian Kashmir on Tuesday, a day before the first anniversary of stripping the disputed region’s semi-autonomy, officials said, amid fears of looming anti-India protests.
A government order issued Monday night cited intelligence reports that “separatists and Pakistan sponsored groups are planning to observe 5th August 2020 as a black day.”
The restriction will remain in force for Aug.4 and 5, said the order, released on social media networks.
Separately, police vehicles with megaphones rolled in Srinagar streets with officers asking residents not to venture out till Wednesday evening.
The restive region is already under the coronavirus induced lockdown with most economic activities limited even as people were allowed to move around for buying essentials amid an alarming spike in the number of infections.
However, the streets on Tuesday wore a deserted look as the government deployed thousands of police and para-military troopers in full riot gear across the Himalayan territory, which is disputed between India and Pakistan.
People carrying government-issued curfew passes were allowed by the security forces to move out of their homes.
Government forces have also sealed all major and link roads with razor wires and steel barricades to force people to stay indoors.
“We heard announcements on loudspeakers late last night directing people to remain indoors because of strict lockdown,” Aijaz Malik, a south Kashmir resident, told EFE over the phone.
“The curfew is all around. It is aimed at not allowing us to raise our voice,” Hilal Ahmad, a resident, told EFE.
“We are facing yet another round of a strict undeclared curfew as the men in uniform have taken over the market places and every road,” he said.
The restrictions refreshed the memories of months-long security lockdown introduced a day before India’s Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi government changed the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir’s on Aug. 5 last year.
The decision preceded a total communications blackout with phone and internet lines snapped for months as tens of thousands of armed forces moved into the valley to thwart street protests in the troubled Muslim-majority region.
Public anger and resentment across Kashmir against the government have been palpable since last year’s decision which also heralded a change in framing and approving new laws by bureaucrats.
One of the most prominent laws framed by the administration is granting rights to tens of thousands of people from outside of the region to buy land in the region.
The government has justified the moves as harbingers of peace and development to attract private investment in the region that been fighting a three-decade-long armed rebellion against Indian rule which has claimed tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians.
The Kashmir chapter of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has announced a 15-day long program from August 5 to “celebrate (Kashmir’s) complete integration with the union of India.”
“We have chalked out a 15-day long program to celebrate the scrapping of Article 370 which has helped in bringing peace to Kashmir,” BJP spokesman for Kashmir Altaf Thakur told EFE.
“We are going to organize special functions and unfurl the tri-color (national flag) at various places to express our happiness,” he said. EFE-EPA