India on guard in Kashmir ahead of anniversary of lost autonomy

A curfew has been imposed across Indian Kashmir just two days before the first anniversary of New Delhi’s abolition of the restive region’s semi-autonomy, officials said late August 3, citing intelligence reports of looming protests. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 August 2020

India on guard in Kashmir ahead of anniversary of lost autonomy

  • Late on Monday, authorities imposed a curfew in Srinagar until Wednesday due to intelligence about potential violent protests

SRINAGAR: Indian soldiers patrolled streets and kept watch from the rooftops in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on the eve of the first anniversary of the Muslim majority region’s loss of autonomy.
Late on Monday, authorities imposed a curfew in Srinagar until Wednesday due to intelligence about potential violent protests, according to a government order.
On Aug. 5, 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government took away Jammu & Kashmir state’s special privileges, provoking anger in the region and in neighboring Pakistan.
It also took away Jammu & Kashmir’s status as a state by creating two federally controlled territories, splitting off the thinly populated, Buddhist-dominated region of Ladakh.
Jammu & Kashmir had been the only Muslim-majority state in mainly Hindu India.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, and the disputed Himalayan region was again the focus of a flare-up between the two nuclear powers last year.
Police had received information that separatist groups including those supported by Pakistan planned to observe a “Black Day” on Wednesday and there was a risk to life and property, the Srinagar’s district magistrate said in a public order.
Modi’s government has said the move last August was necessary to spur economic development and to better integrate the region with the rest of country.
But the removal of Kashmir’s special status — granted to the state via the Indian Constitution’s Article 370 — was accompanied by harsh movement restrictions, mass detentions and a complete communication blackout to forestall protests.
Shabir Ahmad Dar, 40, who works in a juice factory, said he was stopped at one of Srinagar’s several checkpoints on Tuesday morning and was told by soldiers to return home.
“Other workers from our locality were also sent back,” he said.
Pakistan has said it will observe the anniversary of Kashmir’s loss of autonomy as a “siege day” in solidarity with Kashmiris.
New Delhi has along accused Pakistan of backing militant groups operating in Kashmir — a charge that Islamabad denies, saying that it only provides moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.

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Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong arrested for 2019 ‘unlawful assembly’

Updated 53 min 49 sec ago

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong arrested for 2019 ‘unlawful assembly’

  • The 23-year-old pro-democracy figure said on Twitter he was being held for violating the “draconian anti-mask law”
HONG KONG: Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was arrested on Thursday in relation to a protest at the height of the city’s pro-democracy unrest last year, his lawyer said.
The detention of the city’s most high-profile dissident is the latest in a string of arrests of government critics and comes after China imposed a sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong in late June.
He was arrested for “unlawful assembly” over a 2019 demonstration against a government ban on face masks that was imposed before the coronavirus pandemic, his lawyer said.
The 23-year-old pro-democracy figure said on Twitter he was also being held for violating the “draconian anti-mask law,” which has since been ruled unconstitutional.
Wong’s lawyer told AFP he was arrested when he reported to a police station concerning another case against him, for which he is currently on trial.
“Wong is accused of participating in an unlawful assembly on October 5 last year, when hundreds marched to oppose an anti-mask ban the government rolled out,” lawyer Jonathan Man said.
The march that day came after much of the city had ground to a halt with the subway suspended and many shops and malls shuttered following a night of violence.
Hundreds of protesters, almost all masked, staged the unsanctioned demonstration through the popular shopping district of Causeway Bay, a day after the city’s leader Carrie Lam outlawed masks by invoking colonial-era emergency powers not used for half a century.
The act of resistance came after a night of widespread chaos as hardcore protesters trashed dozens of subway stations, vandalized shops with mainland China ties, built fires and blocked roads. Many chanted “No rioters, only tyranny” and other popular protest slogans.
At the time of the march, Hong Kong had already been battered by four months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests.