Discontent in occupied Kashmir on second anniversary of loss of autonomy

SRINAGAR: Troops patrolled the streets on Thursday in Srinagar, the main city of Indian-occupied Kashmir, where many shops were shut to mark the second year since the Himalayan region was stripped of its autonomy.

In 2019, in a purported effort to bind the restive region closer to the rest of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government withdrew long-standing constitutional privileges accorded to the disputed Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The measure also split the state into two federal territories including the remote Buddhist-dominated Ladakh region, which further angered Kashmiris.

Troops manned checkpoints in parts of Srinagar, which has been a hotbed of pro-freedom activity, carrying out security checks on people and vehicles, witnesses said.

However, Kashmir’s police chief, Vijay Kumar, told Reuters that no extra security measures had been levied, insisting that conditions were normal, including internet links, often severed in the past to forestall protests.

“But our surveillance system has been increased,” he added, without providing further details.

Pro-freedom fighters have battled India’s rule in Kashmir for more than seven decades, a revolt it blames Pakistan for having stoked. Islamabad denies this, saying it provides only moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people.

In Islamabad, President Arif Alvi led a solidarity rally outside the parliament house and demanded that India restore Kashmiris’ rights.

“I warn India not to play with fire and [to] give Kashmiris their due rights, which has been pledged by the United Nations,” he said.

A grouping of political parties in Kashmir, the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, said it would keep up its struggle for the restoration of partial autonomy.

However, a minister in Modi’s office, Jitendra Singh, claimed Kashmir was better off fully integrated with India, where its special laws had resulted in an unhealthy divide.

“Today such distinctions are history,” he wrote in the Indian Express newspaper.

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