Protest, strike mark autonomy loss anniversary in Kashmir

Attribution: AFP/Getty Images

Shopkeepers at central business hub allege police break locks of shops with iron rods, ask them to stay open

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – A protest and strike marked the second anniversary of Jammu and Kashmir’s losing its special autonomous status amid allegations that police coerced some shopkeepers into keeping their shops open in the business hub of capital city Srinagar.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and some members of her party held a demonstration and shouted slogans against India’s decision to scrap the disputed region’s autonomy.

“The black decision of Aug. 5 is not acceptable, not acceptable. Stop oppression and repression, stop arrests and detentions,” the protesters said.

Mufti, the only woman chief minister in the region’s history and who led a coalition government with Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party until 2018, tweeted: “When unbridled oppression is unleashed and gross injustice heaped, there is no other choice but to resist to exist.”

Wearing black dresses, some party workers protested in Jammu, a stronghold of the Hindu supremacist Indian government. Another protest was held in the Rajouri district of Jammu province, the party tweeted.

Jammu and Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan but claimed by both in full. On Aug. 5, 2019, the Indian government revoked Article 370 and other related provisions from its Constitution, scrapping the country’s only Muslim-majority state with its autonomy. The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two centrally-ruled territories – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, a strike was observed in Kashmir upon the call of Syed Ali Geelani, a 91-year-old, ailing Kashmiri leader who has spent the better part of the past decade under house detention.

Several journalists working for Indian and international media outlets shared videos and pictures of police, some of whom were in civvies, breaking locks of several shops at Lal Chowk, the largest business center in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Mufti Islah, an award-winning broadcast journalist, tweeted the picture of a lock broken by police and shown to journalists by a shopkeeper.

A shopkeeper at Lal Chowk, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, told Anadolu Agency: “I half-opened the shutters because I had forgotten a document yesterday. While I was inside, a police officer rolled the shutters up and asked me to stay open for the day. I locked it and rushed home when they went away.”

As the men in civvies were breaking the lock of a shop, a police officer watching nearby told a few reporters covering the incident: “We are providing security to shopkeepers.”

Sandeep Chaudhary, police chief of Srinagar city, on Friday tweeted screenshot of a WhatsApp message which, he said, was used to threaten shopkeepers into keeping shops shut.

Nearly all pro-India political parties, even the ones believed to be close to the Indian government, have called Aug. 5 a “black day”. At present, almost all pro-freedom leadership is jailed across India.

Geelani’s representative based in Pakistan issued a statement that said India’s motive behind scrapping of autonomy was to reduce Muslims into a minority by settling outsiders in the region.

A pro-freedom leader and chief preacher of Kashmir’s largest mosque, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who has been under house detention since Aug. 4, 2019, said in a statement that the Indian government’s decision has “only complicated” the UN-recognized dispute.

“The government continues to assault the people of the state by continuing to incarcerate political prisoners and youth, intimidate people by arrests and bringing in arbitrary and anti-people laws, media gags, arbitrary dismissal of locals from government service, gagging all voices of dissent and misrepresents the actual situation in the state,” Mirwaiz said in a statement.

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