Virus lockdown shuts Kashmir year after autonomy stripped

Authorities on Wednesday enforced security restrictions in many parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir, a year after New Delhi revoked the disputed region's semi-autonomy in a decision that set of anger and economic ruin amid a harsh security clampdown.

Officials lifted a curfew in the restive region's main city of Srinagar late Tuesday, but said restrictions on public movement, transport and commercial activities would continue because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Government forces erected steel barricades and razor wire across many roads, bridges and intersections. Shops and businesses remained shut and police and soldiers stopped residents at checkpoints, only letting an odd vehicle or pedestrians pass.

Several residents said government forces stopped them at checkpoints, saying was still in place.

"You call it a curfew or virus lockdown, the fact is that we're under a brutal siege and this siege is a year old now," said Ishfaq Ahmed, a resident.

On Aug. 5, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government stripped Jammu and 's statehood, scrapped its separate constitution and removed inherited protections on land and jobs.

The region was also split into two federal territories — Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir. Following the tectonic move, Indian authorities enforced information blackout and a security clampdown in Kashmir for months. Thousands of Kashmiri youths, separatist leaders and politicians who have traditionally supported Indian rule were arrested. Hundreds of them continue to be incarcerated.

As some of these restrictions were eased, India enforced another harsh lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus, deepening economic crisis in the restive region.

In Ladakh's Muslim-majority Kargil district, where people have resented India's move, religious and political groups demanded revocation of the order, calling Aug. 5 a "black day." Businesses and shops remained closed in most parts of the district.

The status of Kashmir has been a key point of dispute between Pakistan and India since the two split after the end of British colonial rule. They each control part of Kashmir and have fought two wars over their rival claims.

Initially, the anti-India movement in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir was largely peaceful, but after a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown on dissent, Kashmiris launched a full-blown armed revolt in 1989.






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