Governor Satya Pal Malik told Times of India restrictions on movement in the Muslim-majority region will be relaxed after Thursday. A communications blackout imposed by New Delhi after stripping Kashmir of constitutional autonomy will continue.

An aerial view shows deserted roads amid security clampdown in Jammu. August 6, 2019.
An aerial view shows deserted roads amid security clampdown in Jammu. August 6, 2019. (Reuters)

Restrictions on freedom of movement in India-administered Kashmir will be eased after Independence Day on Thursday, the governor of the restive valley said, although the communication blackout will continue. Restrictions in Hindu-majority Jammu have been completely lifted.

International outrage followed New Delhi's move to strip India-administered Kashmir's constitutional autonomy on August 5. The disputed Muslim-majority region has been under severe restrictions since, raising concerns Kashmiris are running short of essentials and news of rights violations is not making it out.   

"We don't want to give that instrument to the enemy until things settle down," Satya Pal Malik told the paper in an interview. Malik told Times of India all phone lines and the internet will remain cut off.

"In a week or 10 days, everything will be alright and we will gradually open lines of communication," he said.

“Restrictions imposed in Jammu have been completely removed. They will continue in some places of Kashmir for some time,” Hindustan Times quoted Munir Khan, additional director general of police, as saying. 

Indian authorities need more time to restore order in Kashmir, a Supreme Court justice said on Tuesday while hearing an activist's petition seeking to lift curbs in the Himalayan region.

Expecting a backlash, New Delhi snapped telecommunications and imposed a curfew in India-administered Kashmir on August 4, a day before its surprise presidential decree to strip the region of its autonomous status.

Tens of thousands of troop reinforcements have been deployed to the disputed region's main city of Srinagar and other towns and villages, turning the picturesque city into a deserted warren of barbed wire and barricades.

The reinforcement was sent to beef up the strength of half a million Indian troops that have been stationed in the region for several decades.

The lockdown has not completely prevented protests, however.

At least one protester died in a police chase during the curfew in India-administered Kashmir's main city Srinagar, a police official told AFP last week. 

TRT World could not confirm the circumstances of his death and accounts on social media suggest Kashmiris have suffered medical complications or died during the severe restrictions on movement and communication.

On Wednesday, top police official Khan said the situation was under complete control. The Times quoted him as saying: “There have been only a few pellet injuries that have been treated.” 

According to residents, around 8,000 people took part in another demonstration after Friday prayers, with security forces firing tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns to break up the rally.

On Tuesday, the Indian government confirmed for the first time that clashes took place, blaming them on "miscreants" and saying its forces reacted with "restraint".

Mosque shut 

For the Muslim festival of Eid al Adha on Monday, the Himalayan region's biggest mosque the Jama Masjid was ordered shut and people were only allowed to pray in smaller local mosques so that no big crowds could gather, witnesses said.

Footage filmed by AFP on Monday showed hundreds of people protesting in the Soura area of Srinagar, shouting slogans such as "We want freedom" and "India go back."

Three helicopters continuously hovered over the area as protesters jeered and shook fists at the aircraft.

"What India has done is unacceptable to us. Our struggle will continue even if India keeps Kashmir locked down for months. Only solution is that India has to accept what Kashmiris want," one protester told AFP.

India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947 when British colonialists left the subcontinent. The next year, they fought the first of two wars over control of Kashmir. 

It ended with the region divided between them, though both claim it entirely, and also resulted in the unfulfilled promise of a UN-sponsored referendum on the future of the disputed region.

Rebels have been fighting Indian rule for decades. 

Some 70,000 people have died in clashes between militants and civilian protesters and Indian security forces since 1989. Most Kashmiris want either independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Kashmiris fear India's move to put the region under greater New Delhi control will alter its demographics and cultural identity.

India's Prime Minister Modi said the decision to revoke Kashmir's constitutional autonomy and downgrade it from statehood to a territory would free it from "terrorism".

Pakistani PM reiterates support to Kashmiris

Pakistan's prime minister has assured people living in the Indian-administered part of the divided region that he supports them in their struggle for self-determination.

Islamabad previously "downgraded" diplomatic relations and suspended bilateral trade with India in the aftermath of New Delhi's move to scrap laws that were key to the accession treaty with Kashmir.

On Wednesday Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who on Sunday likened India's government to Nazi Germany, is due to make a speech in the legislative assembly in Pakistani Kashmir.

In his statement on Wednesday, Imran Khan condemned New Delhi's decision August 5 to downgrade Kashmir's status, as he began celebrations marking Pakistan's independence day.

Khan is spending the day in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to express solidarity with residents of India-administered Kashmir. He will make a speech in the Legislative Assembly to denounce Indian human rights violations in Kashmir.

Pakistan has also called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council, saying the move by India's Hindu nationalist-led government threatens international peace and could lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide.

China on Wednesday backed Pakistan's request for the UN Security Council to discuss India's move, asking for the body to meet behind closed doors on Thursday or Friday, diplomats said.

However, France responded to the request by proposing that the council discuss the issue in a less formal manner - known as "any other business" - next week, diplomats said. 

Poland holds the council presidency this month and Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said members would discuss the letter.

Pakistan's president, celebrating Pakistan's independence in Islamabad, also condemned India's downgrading of Kashmir's status as a violation of international law and says Pakistan "will not leave Kashmiri people alone."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies