Hundreds of protestors clash with police in Indian Kashmir

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Protesters shout slogans at a rally against the Indian government's move to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy and impose a communications blackout, in Srinagar on August 16, 2019. (AFP)
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Security personnel stand guard during a lockdown in Srinagar on August 16, 2019, after the Indian government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy. (AFP)
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A young boy joins protesters holding placards at a rally against the Indian government's move to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy and impose a communications blackout, in Srinagar on August 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2019

Hundreds of protestors clash with police in Indian Kashmir

  • The clashes broke out after several thousand people rallied in the main city of Srinagar, where a security lockdown entered its 12th straight day after New Delhi stripped Kashmir of its autonomy
  • Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to US President Donald Trump about his concerns over the situation in disputed Kashmir region

SRINAGAR: Hundreds of protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir clashed with police on Friday who responded with tear gas rounds and pellet-firing shotguns, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
The clashes broke out after several thousand people rallied in the main city of Srinagar, where a security lockdown entered its 12th straight day after New Delhi stripped Kashmir of its autonomy.
No injuries were reported.
The protesters rallied inside the Srinagar locality of Soura that has witnessed regular protests since New Delhi announced its surprise move on August 5.
Police attempted to disperse hundreds of protesters who tried to march down the main road.
Protesters hurled stones and used shop hoardings and tin sheets as improvised shields, as police shot dozens of rounds into the crowd.
A drone kept vigil over the area as thousands of men and women gathered inside a popular shrine.
"We are trying to breach the siege and march to the city centre but police is using force to stop us," one protester told AFP, adding that three people were injured on Thursday in clashes with police officers and reservists.
Sporadic clashes were also reported in other parts of the Kashmir Valley, the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule for decades, where communications have been cut off for nearly two weeks.
Major towns and cities in the restive valley remained under curfew, with government forces allowing people to move only on special passes.
Government forces erected steep barricades and used concertina wires to block roads.
No big gatherings were allowed in the valley and most mosques were shut for the second consecutive Friday.
"We want what is ours. We are not begging for anything but demand India should respect its promises," another protester told AFP.
"We will not sit back until we achieve complete independence from India," he said.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to US President Donald Trump about his concerns over the situation in disputed Kashmir region, Islamabad's foreign minister said Friday, ahead of a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the issue.
"Today (Khan) has talked to President Trump. Views were exchanged on the situation in the region and particularly the situation in Occupied Kashmir," said foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a press conference.


India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

Updated 2 min 47 sec ago

India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

  • Ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley
  • The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors

NEW DELHI: India has dispatched dozens of ministers to its portion of the Kashmir region to promote government projects and development following months of unrest in the area.

Last August New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, imposing a security crackdown and a communications blackout. It is India’s only Muslim-majority state and scrapping its semi-independence was the central government’s bid to integrate it fully with India and rein in militancy.

Prepaid mobile and Internet services have been restored although most of the valley remains without the Internet. Landline and post-paid mobile services were restored last month. 

The 36 ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley, with media reports saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the delegation “to spread the message of development among the people, not only in the urban areas but also in the villages of the valley.”

He was also reported as asking them to tell people about central government schemes that will have grassroot benefits.

The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors to the region.

Jammu-based ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo said the ministerial trip tied in with New Delhi’s development agenda.

“The ministers will interact with local-level representatives and stakeholders, and discuss the plan for the development of Jammu and Kashmir,” he told Arab News. “Kashmir cannot go back to the old ways. There are no political issues that remain here, all have been sorted out by parliament by abolishing Article 370, division of the state and neutralization of separatist elements.”

But India’s opposition Congress party said the visit was an attempt to “mislead and misguide” the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“This is a third attempt to mislead and misguide the people of the world, Jammu and Kashmir and India. They are coming here for a third time to tell lies,” Congress leader and the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam, Nabi Azad, said.

Dr. Radha Kumar, from the Delhi Policy Group, said that a development agenda would not work without addressing the political issue.

“With all the unilateral decisions to abrogate the special status of the state, arresting all the mainstream leaders and putting the state in a lockdown, how are the government’s actions so far going to establish credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir?” Kumar told Arab News. “I think this visit is more for international consumption than anything else.”

Dr. Siddiq Wahid, a Kashmiri intellectual and academic, called the visit a “clear sign” that New Delhi had no idea what to do.

“No matter how many ministers you send to Jammu and Kashmir it’s not going to alter the ground situation, it’s not going to address the issue of alienation,” he told Arab News. “What issues will they talk about with people? The government lost the people’s trust long ago.”

The Himalayan region has experienced turmoil and violence for decades. It is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, which have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it. India’s portion has been plagued by separatist violence since the late 1980s.

Jammu-based Zafar Choudhary, a senior journalist and editor of The Dispatch newspaper, said Modi’s government was full of surprises. “There have never been so many surprises in Jammu and Kashmir as have come in the last two years,” he told Arab News. “There is no instance in the past when so many central ministers have visited a state in one go.”

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