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Some signs of normality return to Kashmir

Published: August 11, 2019 10:34:06 | Updated: August 11, 2019 13:07:16


Muslims purchase food and vegetables during a lockdown in Srinagar

 

For the first time in six days, India eased travel restrictions in some parts of Srinagar on Saturday, and people flooded the streets of Kashmir's summer capital to buy provisions ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Adha on Monday.

But with public mobile, landline telephone and internet connections still severed by the authorities in most of the Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir state, many people were still struggling to make contact with relatives to plan the holiday, reports Reuters.

And some homeowners and city workers were left to clean up Srinagar's streets on Saturday, a day after police used tear gas and fired pellets to control a protest after Friday prayers over India's withdrawal of special rights for the Muslim-majority state.

Seeking to tighten its grip on the region also claimed by neighbouring Pakistan, New Delhi on Monday scrapped the state's right to frame its own laws and allowed non-residents to buy property there.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government also locked down the revolt-torn region, cutting off communications, detaining more than 500 political leaders and activists, and putting a 'virtual curfew' into force with numerous police and army roadblocks stopping movement by many residents.

Regional leaders had warned of a backlash in the region, where militants have been fighting Indian rule for nearly 30 years, leading to the deaths of more than 50,000 people.

Signs of Friday's protest - the largest since India's clampdown - were visible in the Soura area of Srinagar on Saturday.

Large rocks, wooden platforms, poles and boulders blocked the main street, and shops were shut. Protest graffiti, including calls for "Azad" - the Urdu word for freedom - were visible.

Reuters reported at least 10,000 people were involved in Friday's protest, based on an estimate provided by a police source and backed up by two eyewitnesses. Another official source on Saturday gave Reuters the same estimate.

In a tweeted statement on Saturday, the spokeswoman for India's Ministry of Home Affairs, Vasudha Gupta, said that the estimate of 10,000 was "completely fabricated & incorrect".

There had been a few "stray protests" in the area but "none involved a crowd of more than 20 ppl", she said.

Reuters was unable to reach Gupta for further comment.

Video footage carried by international news channels, the BBC and Al Jazeera and available online, appeared to show very large crowds protesting in Srinagar on Friday.

 

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