AUTHORITIES in Indian-administered Kashmir yesterday eased restrictions on parts of its main city Srinagar as the Eid al-Adha Muslim festival got under way there, following India’s decision to strip the region of its constitutional autonomy – a bit like Westminster scrapping Scottish devolution. Magistrate Shahid Choudhary said more than 250 cash machines had been made functional and bank branches opened for people to withdraw money ahead of the festival.

However, a communications blackout was in force for the seventh day – cutting off Kashmir from the rest of India.

Rahul Gandhi, leader of India’s main opposition Congress party, said there were reports of violence and “people dying” in the region.

He said: “Things are going very wrong there,” and called for the Indian Government to make clear what was happening.

Srinagar authorities said there had been instances of stone throwing by protesters but no guns had been fired by security forces in the past six days.

Television images showed movement of cars and people in some parts of Kashmir. State-run All India Radio quoted the region’s top bureaucrat, chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, as saying that people were coming out of their homes for Eid shopping and that Srinagar and other towns had witnessed good road traffic on Saturday. India’s junior home minister, G Kishan Reddy, said he expected the situation in Kashmir to become “fully peaceful” in 10-15 days, adding that communications would be restored in phases.

“We have only taken precautionary measures with the view that even small incidents should not occur when a major decision has been made,” he said.


ARCH-rivals India and Pakistan have been arguing over Kashmir for decades, since the British left the subcontinent in 1947, and two of their three wars have been fought over the territory. Historically, Britain had separate electorates for Muslim citizens and reserved some political seats for Muslims, which hemmed them into a minority status and fuelled a growing separatist movement. On August 14, 1947, the independent, Muslim-majority nation of Pakistan was formed and the Hindu-majority independent nation of India, followed the next day.The state of Jammu and Kashmir, which had a majority Muslim population, was then governed by maharaja Hari Singh, a Hindu, who wanted independence for Kashmir.

As violence raged across the two new nations, Pakistan’s Government pressured Kashmir to join it and pro-Pakistani rebels took over much of western Kashmir. Singh asked for India’s help but was told that to gain military assistance, Kashmir would have to accede to India, thus becoming part of the new country. Singh agreed and signed the Instrument of Accession, which aligned Kashmir with the Dominion of India, in October 1947.

Later, Kashmir was given special status within the Indian constitution guaranteeing that Kashmir would have independence over everything but communications, foreign affairs, and defence – the status the Indian government revoked earlier this month.


WHO knows? The move to end 70 years of Kashmir autonomy by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took everyone by surprise and authorities imposed a lockdown fearing massive protests.

Footage from Al Jazeera and the BBC showed protesters marching on the streets and clashing with security forces.

Pakistan said on Saturday that with China’s support it would take up India’s action in Kashmir with the UN Security Council and could approach the UN Human Rights Commissioner over what it called the “genocide” of the Kashmiri people. Most Kashmiri residents want either independence or a merger with Pakistan, whose foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: “When a demographic change is made through force, it’s called genocide, and you are moving toward genocide.”

Barbed wire barricades are still in place in the streets of Srinagar, where armed security personnel remain on patrol.

However, a restriction that banned public assemblies has been lifted for the Eid festival.


PAKISTAN has announced a series of measures to oppose what it called India’s “unilateral and illegal actions”. Islamabad downgraded diplomatic relations and suspended bilateral trade with India and said it will take the matter to the United Nations Security Council and ensure the army remains vigilant, while India urged Pakistan to review these measures.

Pakistan also imposed altitude restrictions on foreign aircraft flying over Lahore. Relations between the two rivals were already under strain following the February airstrikes by India and Pakistan’s retaliation in shooting down an Indian jet. India’s initial airstrikes were in response to a suicide bombing in Kashmir that killed 40 paramilitary troops. India has accused Pakistan of supporting armed extremists in Jammu and Kashmir, charges which Pakistan denied and said it offered only moral support to separatists.


PERHAPS not for too long. India’s independence day is Thursday and the security crackdown is only expected to last until then, after restrictions were eased for Friday prayers last week and for shopping ahead of Eid. Qureshi and opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have expressed support for people in the Indian-administered portion of Kashmir to have self-determination.

Qureshi also urged the international community to take notice of “Indian atrocities and human rights violations in Kashmir”.

He said Islamabad was trying its best to highlight the Kashmir issue internationally and expose Indian “cruelties” in the region.