A multi-screen cinema hall has been inaugurated in Srinagar city amidst great fanfare as the troubled region is fast becoming a popular filming destination for Bollywood.

Members of the media and other guests watch a movie during the inauguration of a multiplex cinema in Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir, on September 20, 2022.
Members of the media and other guests watch a movie during the inauguration of a multiplex cinema in Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir, on September 20, 2022. (Dar Yasin / AP)

Silver screens lit up in India-administered Kashmir for the first time in a generation at the opening of a new cinema, decades after an armed separatist movement shuttered local movie halls.

The inauguration of the first multiplex in the city took place on Tuesday, and it will begin showing movies next month.

Inox, an Indian multiplex chain, is establishing the 520-seat hall with three screens in Srinagar, the summer capital of the administrated Jammu and Kashmir region that has been at the forefront of the separatist movement since 1989.

Manoj Sinha, the region's top official, inaugurating the first multiplex in the city, also inaugurated two cinema halls in Shopian and Pulwama, two of the worst violence-scarred districts in region.

Also, there are initial plans for the opening of 10 more cinemas around the region.

Srinagar had over a dozen single-screen cinema halls operational before they downed shutters with the deterioration of the security situation. The last cinema hall closed in 1999.

The theatres were later mostly occupied by security forces, who used them as detention and interrogation centres, with some still used by soldiers as staging posts.

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Military crackdowns

At least half a million Indian troops are permanently stationed in Kashmir, which is also claimed and partly administrated by Pakistan.

India regularly blames Pakistan for backing the long-running separatist movement against its rule, an allegation Islamabad denies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government has tightened its chokehold on India-administered Kashmir since 2019, when it revoked the limited autonomy constitutionally guaranteed to the region.

Modi's government has been encouraging local and international companies to set up businesses there after the region was brought under direct federal rule.

After the 2019 move, thousands of people were taken into preventive detention to forestall expected protests against the sudden decision, while authorities severed communications links in what became the world's longest-ever internet shutdown.

Clashes between separatists — who are fighting for independence or a merger with neighbouring Pakistan — and Indian troops are still a regular occurrence and protests and civic life have been severely curbed.

Foreign journalists are barred from the territory while local reporters are regularly harassed by police and security forces for their coverage.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies