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India-controlled Kashmir seethes as curfew extends to seventh day

The curfew follows the secret execution of a Kashmiri man convicted for his role in a 2001 attack on India's parliament. The execution and India's crackdown have sparked talk of renewed unrest in Kashmir.

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Severe media restrictions

Amid severe restrictions on the media – newspapers could not publish for four days – mobile Internet services were withdrawn without notice and cable TV pulled off indefinitely, prompting many Kashmiri people to feel pushed to the wall without avenues to express themselves. A Kashmiri lawmaker in the region was also detained after he tried to lead a protest demonstration against the hanging.

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“No Kashmiri leader is able to do anything. I am helpless and personally want to quit this dirty [pro-India] politics,” the lawmaker, Abdul Rasheed, said over the phone from a police barracks where he is being kept under detention. “I will go to my supporters and explain myself as soon as I am released.”

The anger and hurt is so deep that many who had started veering toward a politics of reconciliation have begun to change course.

Raja Muzaffar Bhat, a young anticorruption activist who had joined the pro-India Peoples Democratic Party, resigned from the group, saying on Facebook, "...I feel that there is no space for working democratically within the Indian state.”

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, former Interior minister of India, also criticized the hanging, saying he regretted that Delhi would not allow the family a last meeting, or possession of the body. Mr. Sayeed, at one point Indian Kashmir’s chief minister, said in a statement: “This reduces Mahatama Gandhi’s country, the world’s largest democracy and a genuine candidate for superpower status, to a banana republic.”

The latest unrest in Kashmir comes after renewed India-Pakistan bonhomie that withstood the recent flare-up along the heavily militarized line of control, or LoC, that divides the region between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors. The skirmishes, the worst since the two countries signed a cease-fire in 2003, led to the killing of three Pakistani and two Indian soldiers.

Separatist leader Abdul Gani Bhat, recently criticized here for advocating "reconciliation" and forging a common agenda with pro-India Kashmiri groups to find a solution to the Kashmir dispute, said New Delhi’s policy in Kashmir was eroding India’s “democratic institutions.”

“If India doesn’t recognize its mistakes in Kashmir soon and sincerely correct them, a process of Balkanization will ensue,” Professor Bhat said.

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