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India relaxes curfew in Kashmir

August 29, 2016

Authorities have lifted a curfew imposed in most parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir following a 52-day security lockdown. An all-party delegation is to visit the region.

Indien Srinagar Unruhen Sicherheitskräfte
Image: Reuters/C. McNaughton

Indian security forces removed steel barricades and coils of barbed wire from the roads across the region Monday, but officials said the curfew would continue in some parts of the old quarters of Kashmir's main city of Srinagar and in the southern Pulwama area.

At least 68 civilians have been killed and thousands injured, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotguns at rock-throwing protesters, since widespread unrest began more than 50 days ago. Two police officers have been killed and hundreds of government forces have been injured in the clashes.

An iconic guerilla slain by troops

Pakisten Aktivist Burhan Wani
Kashmiri guerilla leader Burhan Wani was killed last month by troops, sparking some of the most violent unrest in years.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R.S.Hussain

Indian authorities imposed the curfew following widespread unrest sparked by troops killing a popular guerilla leader on July 8. But the curfew decree failed to prevent some of the largest protests against Indian rule in recent years with violent clashes between armed troops and stone-throwing protesters going on for weeks.

An all-party delegation led by India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh will visit the province, officially called Jammu and Kashmir, on September 4. The delegation said it would interact with a cross-section of people as part of a conciliatory effort from New Delhi to bring peace to the restive region.

There is strong anti-Indian sentiment in the Muslim-majority region which has increased over the years with a huge buildup of troops sent to pacify the rebellious province.

Stick-and-carrot diplomacy continues

India has continued its efforts to quash Kashmir's insurgency. A senior All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) leader was detained Saturday by Indian forces near the administrative capital as he attempted to lead a pro-independence rally.

"He was first detained by police while trying to leave home to lead a peaceful demonstration," his aide Tariq Buch told the AFP news agency.

A day later India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said "unity" and "compassion" were key in addressing the Kashmir unrest. It represented a softer tone than the uncompromising rhetoric that had been coming out of New Delhi in recent weeks.

India claims Pakistan supports and encourages the rebels and separatist leaders but Islamabad denies the charge and calls them freedom fighters. Both India and Pakistan claim the region which has been disputed since the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, which British colonial rulers instituted as they departed.

More than 50,000 people have been killed since a violent secessionist militant movement broke out in Indian-administered Kashmir in the 1980s.

jar/jm (AFP, PTI, AP)