Troops yesterday patrolled the streets in Srinagar, the main city of Kashmir, where many shops were shut to mark the second year since the region was stripped of its autonomy.
In 2019, in an effort to bind the restive region closer to the rest of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government withdrew long-standing constitutional privileges accorded to the country’s only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The measure also split the state into two federal territories including the remote Buddhist-dominated Ladakh region, which further angered Kashmiris.
Troops manned checkpoints in parts of Srinagar, which has been a hotbed of separatist activity, carrying out security checks on people and vehicles, witnesses said.
However, Kashmir’s police chief, Vijay Kumar, told Reuters that no extra security measures had been levied, adding that conditions were normal, including Internet links, often severed in the past to forestall protests.
“But our surveillance system has been increased,” he added, without giving details.
Suspected rebels fired live shots in the air in the heart of the congested old town Srinagar where a low intensity explosive device also went off, witnesses said.
In the Sopore area unknown rebels fired at police as authorities tried to force shopkeepers observing the shutdown to open their doors, an officer said.
District police denied the incident took place however in a post on Twitter.
Top separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, 90, had called for a general shutdown to mark a “black day” in protest at “India’s naked aggression”, in a Twitter statement. The call was supported by several smaller separatist groups.
A grouping of political parties in Kashmir, the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, said it would keep up its struggle for restoration of partial autonomy.
However, a minister in Modi’s office, Jitendra Singh, said Kashmir was better off fully integrated with India, where its special laws had resulted in an unhealthy divide.
“Today such distinctions are history,” he wrote in the Indian Express newspaper. Kashmir was now moving toward “deepening democracy, fulfilling people’s aspirations, (and) increasing economic growth”, he added.
Former Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who along with dozens of other local politicians spent months incarcerated after being arrested in the 2019 clampdown, led a protest in Srinagar that police stopped from marching to the city centre.
“When unbridled oppression is unleashed & gross injustice heaped there is no other choice but to resist to exist,” she tweeted.
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