Security in Kashmir tightened following call for march

SRINAGAR, India (AP) – Authorities intensified patrols yesterday in Indian-controlled Kashmir’s main city after posters appeared calling for a public march to a United Nations (UN) office to protest New Delhi’s tightened grip on the disputed region.

Police and paramilitary soldiers re-imposed restrictions on traffic in areas where they had been eased, putting steel barricades back up and laying razor wire across roads, bridges and intersections.

Schools were scheduled to reopen and some constraints on movement and assembly were lifted this week.

On August 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist-led government revoked Kashmir’s decades-old special status guaranteed under Article 370 of India’s Constitution and sent thousands of troops to the region, which is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety.

The move by the Modi government touched off anger among residents of Kashmir.

Posters bearing the name of the Joint Resistance Leadership comprised of three separatist leaders fighting Indian sovereignty in Kashmir appeared on Thursday across Srinagar urging Kashmiris to march to the UN office after Friday prayers. The posters called for preachers to educate the public about the “explosive situation arising from India’s political, geographical and demographic plans” in Kashmir.

Kashmiri children accompanied by their mother walk past barb wires set up as road blockade by Indian paramilitary soldiers during a lockdown in Srinagar, Kashmir. – PHOTO: AP

The changes in Kashmir’s status allow anyone to buy land in the territory, which some Kashmiris fear would change the region’s culture and demographics.

It was not immediately possible to verify that the posters were connected to the separatist leaders because two are under house arrest and one is being held in a New Delhi jail.

Security forces in riot gear carrying assault rifles surrounded the UN office.

A paramilitary officer said all vehicles and pedestrians were banned in the area to stop any anti-India protest.

“We have directions to not allow even top officials in the area,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.

Since Monday, two weeks since Kashmir’s special status was abolished, authorities have eased some restrictions, allowing some businesses to reopen in Srinagar. Landline phone service has been restored in some areas. Officials also said they have opened grade schools. But both student and teacher attendance has been sparse.

However, downtown Srinagar, the urban heart of resistance against India where about half a million people live, remained under a blockade. Some vendors and shopkeepers complained that police were forcing them to resume business to “enforce normalcy” in Kashmir.