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Total shut down in IHK

25 February, 2019

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Shops and businesses were closed in Held Kashmir on Sunday to protest a sweeping crackdown against activists seeking the end of Indian occupation in the disputed region.

Police and paramilitary soldiers patrolled streets in the main city of Srinagar and enforced a security lockdown in its downtown area in anticipation of protests and clashes. Carrying automatic rifles and wearing riot gear, soldiers and police erected iron barricades and laid razor wire on roads and intersections to cut off neighbourhoods.

The crackdown began Friday night. Police are mainly targeting Kashmir’s largest political-religious group, Jama’at-e-Islami. The group espouses the right to self-determination for the Himalayan region.

Indian authorities have so far arrested at least 400 Kashmiri leaders and activists, escalating fears among already wary residents that a sweeping crackdown could touch off renewed anti-India protests and clashes. They’ve been lodged in police stations and jails across valley. Among those arrested are Jama’at-e-Islami head Abdul Hamid Fayaz and Yasin Malik, an influential pro-independence leader who heads the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front.

Police say they are rounding up Kashmiri leaders to head off trouble ahead of a general election that must be held by May.

Authorities overnight detained 60 more people from the Jamaat-e-Islami, besides more than 100 held the previous night, said a senior police officer who asked not to be identified. “Since JI has a wider network across Kashmir and they are mobilising anti-India protests, their arrest could help in curbing such protests ahead of elections,” he said. The authorities have also been detaining JeM militants, sympathizers and relatives since the attack.

In response to the strike call, many shops, petrol stations, and businesses remained closed, with fewer people and vehicles on streets in sensitive areas, except for troop patrols. In some areas of the main city of Srinagar, the government clamped down on the movement of people and vehicles. “The restrictions have been imposed as a precautionary measure to avoid any untoward incident,” police said in a statement.

Indian paramilitary troops in riot gear have arrived in strength at first light, said Shakeel Ahmad, a resident of Nowhatta in the Srinagar district. “At places, they have blocked the main roads with steel barricades and concertina wire,” he said.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who chairs the Hurriyat Conference, said arbitrary arrests and jailing of leaders, activists and young people for their political beliefs has happened across Kashmir for 30 years. “Intimidating activists and leadership will not deter them from their path, nor will it stop people from demanding the resolution of the Kashmir dispute through self-determination,” he said.

Indian authorities rushed about 10,000 additional paramilitary soldiers to the already highly militarized valley. Indian soldiers are ubiquitous in Kashmir and local residents make little secret of their fury toward their presence in the Himalayan region, calling them an occupying force.

Meanwhile, Indian troops in their fresh act of state terrorism Sunday martyred three youths in Kulgam district. According to the Kashmir Media Service, the youths were killed during a cordon-and-search operation launched by Indian army, Central Reserve Police Force and Special Operations Group of police in Tarigam area of the district.

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