SRINAGAR: Indian authorities eased restrictions on movement and restored landline telephone links in some parts of Kashmir on Saturday, the biggest relaxation in a crippling lockdown since New Delhi announced it was removing the region’s special status on Aug. 5.
The moves came even as there were celebrations and protests by Kashmiris opposed to the Indian policy in Srinagar on Friday night. The celebrations were to mark the first UN Security Council meeting about the Kashmir issue for about five decades.
Two police officials and a series of eyewitnesses said that demonstrations and celebrations took place in various parts of the city. However, the number of incidents of local residents pelting security forces with stones were low compared with recent days, said a security official who toured Srinagar in the morning.
A witness said that hundreds marched in the Rajouri Kadal area of Srinagar and they also let off some fire crackers. They shouted pro-Pakistani and anti-India slogans during the celebrations, two witnesses said.
For the first time since the Indian government announced that it was revoking Jammu and Kashmir state’s rights to set some of its own laws, police vans didn’t announce imposition of a virtual curfew in Srinagar. The authorities deny there has been a curfew in the past two weeks but on many occasions people have been ordered to stay indoors.
India’s UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said the decision over Kashmir’s status was an internal matter and that the country was committed to ensuring the situation remained “calm and peaceful.”
The Jammu and Kashmir government said that restrictions had been lifted by 35 of the 100 or so police stations across the Kashmir Valley, though it was not immediately clear what this meant.
It said that most of the telephone exchanges for fixed-line phones will be working by Sunday night. In the Jammu area, which is mainly Hindu, mobile services have been restored in some districts.
Despite the relaxation, the situation is still far from normal in Kashmir.
There is still a lockdown in much of the region, including in some parts of Srinagar and in sensitive major towns. There is also no clear indication about when internet and cellphone links will be restored across the region.
Meanwhile, more than 500 political or community leaders and activists remain in detention, some of them having been flown to prisons outside the state.
Some private vehicles were out on major roads in Srinagar on Saturday but the city’s old quarter, long a centre for protests, was deserted, witnesses said. Shops, even grocery stores, remained closed in that area.
The landlines have been restored in some wealthier areas of Srinagar, and in a district near the airport.