–Indian SC refuses to hear urgent PIL challenging changes made in constitutional status of Kashmir without obtaining mandate of citizens
SRINAGAR: An unprecedented security lockdown kept people in Indian-occupied Kashmir indoors for the ninth consecutive day on Tuesday.
Indian troops patrolling the disputed region had allowed some Muslims to walk to mosques to mark the Eidul Azha on Monday and shops had been opened briefly on previous days.
But residents are now running short of essentials under the near-constant curfew and communications blackout as India tried to stave off a violent reaction to the government’s decision August 5 to strip Kashmir of its autonomy.
Witnesses described hundreds of people chanting “We want freedom from India” and “Go India, go back” during a brief protest Monday. Officials said the protest ended peacefully.
The lockdown is expected to last at least through Thursday, India’s independence day.
Kashmiris fear India’s moves bringing the region under greater New Delhi control will alter its demographics and cultural identity.
India said its decisions to revoke Kashmir’s special constitutional status and downgrade it from statehood to a territory would free it from separatism.
Pro-freedom militants have been fighting Indian rule for decades. Some 70,000 people have died in clashes between militants and civilian protesters and Indian security forces since 1989. Most Kashmiris want independence.
India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir and have fought two wars over it. The first one ended in 1948 with the region divided between them and a promise of a UN-sponsored referendum on its future. It has never been held.
Islamabad has denounced the changes as illegal and in response has downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi, expelled the Indian ambassador and suspended trade and train services with India.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) on Tuesday said that India has curtailed the religious freedom of millions of Kashmiris living in occupied Kashmir during Eidul Azha.
FO Spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal said that “restrictions and curtailment of this fundamental religious right of millions of Kashmiris constitute a serious violation of international human rights laws”.
INDIAN SC REJECTS PLEA ON KASHMIR CLAMPDOWN:
Indian authorities need more time to restore order in Kashmir, a Supreme Court justice said on Tuesday as a security clampdown entered a ninth day since New Delhi revoked the region’s special status, triggering protests.
The court is hearing an activist’s petition seeking to lift curbs on communications and movement that have disrupted normal life and essential services in the Himalayan region.
Menaka Guruswamy, a lawyer for the petitioner, said the court should move to restore hospital services and open schools.
“That is all I ask,” she told the Supreme Court in New Delhi.
Justice Arun Mishra said the government wanted to bring Kashmir back to normal as soon as possible.
“The situation is such that nobody knows what is going on. We should give them time to restore normalcy. Nobody can take one per cent of chance,” Mishra said. “Who will be responsible if something really bad happens tomorrow?”
The petition also seeks the release of detained political leaders in Kashmir, among more than 300 people held to prevent widespread protests.
The court is expected to rule on the petition in a few days.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had told India’s Supreme Court security appeared to be getting better.
“The situation in J&K is being reviewed every day and there are signs of improvement,” Venugopal said, as the court heard the plea against the lockdown.
Meanwhile, an Indian home ministry spokesperson said on Twitter that the restrictions “are being eased out in a phased manner” in the tinderbox Kashmir Valley.
Normal communication in the more peaceful Jammu division of the region “has been restored after assessment by relevant local authorities”, the spokesperson added.
There was no independent confirmation of the easing of restrictions. On Tuesday afternoon people in Kashmir could still not be reached by phone and the internet appeared to be inaccessible.
The spokesperson said that medical services are being provided “without any hindrance” and the availability of medicines has “been ensured” in every hospital in the valley.
A main highway through the region “continues to function normally”, with 100 heavy vehicles “plying daily” carrying fuel and other essentials.
Furthermore, Indian officials announced plans for a three-day investor summit in Kashmir beginning October 12, to kickstart economic growth.