Conflicts & War

Indian PM to visit Kashmir for first public event after autonomy abrogation

Srinagar, India, Apr 22 (EFE).- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a public rally in Kashmir over the weekend, a first after the government controversially revoked the special autonomous status of the disputed region and imposed a months-long curfew in August 2019.

The authorities have tightened restrictions in part of the Muslim-majority region ahead of Modi’s visit on Sunday to address a public meeting in Jammu, some 300 km south of Srinagar, the main city.

Officials sounded a security alert after a gunfight broke out in the Sunjwan garrison area of Jammu, some 15 km from the Samba town where Modi’s event will place.

Two suspected militants and a paramilitary officer lost their lives, and at least five security personnel sustained injuries in the gunfight, police said.

It was rare militancy-related violence in the Hindu-dominated district of the Himalayan region, disputed and divided between India and Pakistan, the two South Asian nuclear rivals.

Police chief Dilbag Singh told reporters at the encounter site that the slain militants “planned a major attack” in Jammu ahead of the prime minister’s visit.

He said the militants belonged to a “suicide squad from Pakistan,” and had infiltrated from across the border “to sabotage” the event.

Security forces gunned down four militants in a separate gunfight in the northern Baramulla district of the Kashmir Valley, police said.

At least five security personnel sustained injuries in the gunfight, a police statement said.

The latest in a series of violent incidents came even as the Hindu nationalist government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had claimed that the Aug.5, 2019, decision to revoke the special status was to bring peace and development to Kashmir.

The government then bifurcated the troubled region into two federally administered territories after imposing a months-long tight security lockdown and arresting thousands as a preemptive move to stall protests over the controversial decision.

The people say the move was to change the demographic makeup and let outsiders settle in Kashmir, battling decades of armed insurgency against Indian rule.

Jammu and its adjoining areas had largely welcomed the move to crush the separatist movement in Kashmir.

Modi visited the region previously after 2019 to meet soldiers posted on the Line of Control, the de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

As Modi sets on the Kashmir sojourn to meet the public after the controversial moves, people in the valley appeared unconcerned even as the BJP had prepared all to give a warm welcome to the prime minister in the Hindu-dominated district.

“Kashmiri people are by and large indifferent about the prime minister’s scheduled Jammu visit,” a cloth merchant in Srinagar’s Hari Singh High Street told EFE.

He said India must address the long pending Kashmir issue if it is serious about “peace and prosperity.”

The idyllic Kashmir region remains at the heart of the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan after their independence from British rule and the 1947 partition of the sub-continent.

The two countries have fought two of their three wars over the territory that they rule in parts but claim in its entirety. EFE


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