Kashmir curfew lifted by India, but separatists call for strike

Indian authorities have lifted the Kashmir curfew imposed in the past few days after weeks of protests by separatists led to at least 15 deaths in clashes between protesters and government forces.

Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
Indian policemen rest in a park after a Kashmir curfew is lifted, Sunday. Indian authorities lifted a six-day curfew on Sunday across Muslim-majority Kashmir valley after an uneasy calm returned to the disputed region rocked by weeks of separatists violence, police said.

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Authorities Sunday lifted the Kashmir curfew imposed after weeks of protests by separatists and bouts of violence that led to Indian troops being deployed to control the crowds.

But many areas remained quiet as a coalition of separatist parties called for a strike to protest Indian rule of the state, known officially as Jammu and Kashmir. Tensions have soared as at least 15 people have died in protests and clashes with police over the last month; residents blame the deaths on police and paramilitary forces.

Protests against Indian rule of the Muslim-majority region in the late 1980s led to a conflict that killed tens of thousands of people. Separatists have called for independence from India or a merger with Pakistan.

The Times of India reports that though the curfew was lifted, bans on public assemblies remained in place in some districts and cities, including parts of the major city of Srinigar. Curfews have been imposed on and off during the past month. A curfew was imposed on Srinigar on Tuesday after at least three people were killed in one day of protests, as The Christian Science Monitor reported. It was lifted late Friday to allow a Muslim celebration, then reimposed Saturday after thousands thronged to the streets again in protest, as Agence France-Presse reported.

The Associated Press reports that in shops and businesses were closed in many parts of Kashmir in response to the call for a strike by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a separatist coalition.

Obstacles for the press

Newspapers again did not publish for the fourth straight day, according to the Times of India.

The BBC reported that owners of newspapers stopped publication to protest what they say is essentially a ban on local media covering the crisis. Police refused to issue curfew passes to journalists, making it impossible for them to complete their work, they said.

The BBC also reports that one of its journalists was stopped and beaten by police in Kashmir. The Committee to Protect Journalists on Friday called on Kashmir authorities to address the complaints.

Government criticized

Editorials in Indian newspapers have expressed harsh criticism of the government’s handling of the current crisis. An editorial in The Hindustan Times argues that Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, passed responsibility to the central government by blaming the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Forces, controlled by New Delhi, for the violence.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has lost control of his state. The question now is whether he can recover it. Unfortunately, going by the facts on the ground that have culminated in the deployment of the Indian Army as a “deterrent” to enforce peace and order around, if not in Srinagar, for the first time since at least 15 years, it doesn’t even seem that Mr Abdullah is too keen to wrest control.

And an editorial in the Times of India criticizes a “glaring leadership vacuum” in Kashmir, and argues that the government’s blaming the violence on Pakistani agents is lazy analysis.

Kashmir's political leadership, those in the government and the opposition including the separatists, ought to be ashamed that they've let the blood of children flow on the street. […]The present spate of protests doesn't seem to be organised by any specific group. The protesters are predominantly rebellious youngsters dissatisfied with the affairs of the state. Their anger stems not only from the lack of development and employment, but also the failure of the political leadership to address their aspirations.


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