Tue, Aug 13, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Uneasy calm in Kashmir for festival

DIVISIONS:While a New Delhi official dismissed worries about the region’s lockdown, Pakistan’s Imran Khan said inaction would be like appeasing Hitler

AP, SRINAGAR, India

Kashmiri women shout pro-freedom slogans before offering the Eid-al-Adha prayers at a mosque in Srinagar in Indian-controlled Kashmir yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Troops in India-administered Kashmir yesterday allowed some Muslims to walk to local mosques alone or in pairs to pray for the Eid al-Adha during an unprecedented security lockdown that still forced most people in the disputed region to stay indoors on the Muslim holy day.

Some protesters demonstrated against the Indian government’s surprise revocation of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status last week.

All communications and the Internet remained cut off for an eighth day. The streets were deserted, with authorities not allowing any large groups to gather to avoid anti-India protests.

“Our hearts are on fire,” said Habibullah Bhat, 75, who said he came to offer prayers despite his failing health. “India has thrown us into the dark ages, but God is on our side and our resistance will win.”

Hundreds of worshipers gathered on a street in a neighborhood in Srinagar after the prayers and chanted “We want freedom” and “Go India, Go back,” witnesses said.

Officials said the protest ended peacefully.

Kashmir police said in a tweet that Eid prayers “concluded peacefully in various parts of the [Kashmir] Valley. No untoward incident reported so far.”

Independent verification of events in the region was difficult because of the communications shutdown.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs shared photographs of people visiting mosques, but did not specify where the photos were taken within the region, which New Delhi downgraded from a state to two federal territories a week ago.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale said communications restrictions “will be gradually eased when we feel the law and order situation improves.”

He said most mosques were open, but some were not for security reasons. He also told reporters there were “no reports of starvation” and that medical facilities, utilities and banking services were functioning normally.

More than 1 million people live in the area under security siege in Srinagar. Residents have begun to face shortages of food and other necessities as shops remain shuttered and public movement is restricted. Parents have struggled to entertain their children who are unable to go to school. Patients have faced shortages of prescription drugs.

The security lockdown in India’s only Muslim-majority region is expected to last through Thursday, India’s Independence Day.

The restrictions had been briefly eased for Friday prayers last week and for shopping ahead of the Eid.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi and opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed support for people in the Indian-administered portion of Kashmir to have self-determination.

Both visited the Pakistani portion of Kashmir for the Eid.

Qureshi urged the international community to take notice of “Indian atrocities and human rights violations in Kashmir.”

He said Islamabad was trying its best to highlight the Kashmir issue internationally and expose Indian “cruelties” in the region.

The government called for the Eid to be observed in a “simple manner” to express solidarity with Kashmiris in India.

On Sunday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan likened the Indian government to Nazis, warning that global inaction over Kashmir would be the same as appeasing Adolf Hitler.

On Twitter he wrote: “Attempt is to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing. Question is: Will the world watch & appease as they did Hitler at Munich?”

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