India to deliver Eid food supplies to Kashmir as curfew kept in place

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Authorities enforcing a strict curfew in Indian-administered Kashmir will deliver trucks of essential supplies for an Islamic festival next week, as the divided Himalayan region remains in lockdown after India stripped it of its constitutional autonomy.

The indefinite 24-hour curfew was briefly eased on Friday for weekly Muslim prayers in some parts of Srinagar, the region’s main city, but thousands of residents are still forced to stay indoors with shops and most health clinics closed. All communications and the internet remain cut off.

Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan and is divided between the arch rivals. Rebels have been fighting New Delhi’s rule for decades in the Indian-controlled portion, and most Kashmiri residents want either independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Protesters in Srinagar
Protesters in Srinagar (Dar Yasin/AP)

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has assured the people of Jammu and Kashmir, as the state is known, that normality would return gradually and the government is ensuring the restrictions do not dampen the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha on Monday.

New Delhi rushed tens of thousands of additional soldiers to one of the world’s most militarised regions to prevent unrest and protests after Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government said on Monday that it was revoking Kashmir’s special constitutional status and downgrading its statehood.

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The PM said the move was necessary to free the region of “terrorism and separatism”.

Indians watch Narendra Modi address the nation
Indians watch Narendra Modi address the nation (Channi Anand/AP)

The relaxing of the curfew in Srinagar was temporary and was followed by protests in some parts of the city. Police used tear gas and pellets to force back the protesters who gathered in their largest numbers since authorities clamped down, and detained more than 500 political and separatist leaders.

Other stone-throwing incidents were reported from northern and southern parts of Kashmir.

Authorities are closely watching for any anti-India protests, which will determine a further easing of restrictions for the Eid holiday.

The top administrative official, Baseer Khan, said essential commodities including food, grains and meat will be delivered to different parts of the region by Sunday.

While some easing on the movement and opening of shops is expected around Eid, officials are still holding reservations against restoring mobile and internet services. Some relaxation of curbs on landline communication could be considered, they said.

In Islamabad on Friday, about 8,000 supporters of the Pakistani Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami marched towards the Indian embassy to denounce New Delhi’s action on Kashmir. Hundreds of activists held similar peaceful rallies across Pakistan.

Pakistan says it is considering an approach to the International Court of Justice over India’s action. It also has downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi, expelled the Indian ambassador and suspended trade, train and bus services with India.

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