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Fear, tension rise in Kashmir

August 08, 2019

NEELUM Valley, Pakistan: Roads were empty, shops shuttered and hotels vacant in Pakistani-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, as tension mounted along the de-facto border with India following Delhi’s decision to bring part of the disputed Himalayan territory under its direct control.

Fears have spread throughout the Pakistani side of Kashmir that hostilities may reignite between the nuclear-armed rivals, following the stripping of Indian Kashmir’s autonomous status on Monday by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The stripping of autonomous status for the region can empower India to send soldiers and military hardware in the region and attack portions controlled by Pakistan.

India and Pakistan, which both possess nuclear weapons, had fought six wars since the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

Fear, tension rise in Kashmir 1
CHAOS Police arrest members of the Communist Party of India at a protest in Hyderabad, India in reaction to the Indian government’s scrapping of Article 370 that granted a special status to Jammu and Kashmir. AFP PHOTO

Modi’s executive order came hours after Indian authorities launched a massive security lockdown and cut communications in the restive state to quell any potential unrest.

“My brother lives in Srinagar (in Indian Kashmir). He has small children,” Shafiq Butt, a shopkeeper in Pakistan’s Neelum Valley, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“We haven’t heard from them for the past three days. We don’t know if they are alive or have been killed.”

Delhi’s abolishment of Kashmir’s special status followed accusations by Islamabad over the weekend that the Indian military had used cluster munitions over the Line of Control separating the two countries.

India denied using the munitions.

As tensions mounted, Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed during a joint-session of parliament Tuesday to take up the Kashmir issue with the United Nations while warning Delhi’s decision would likely incite more violence in the region.

“People are leaving but I have nowhere to go,” Khursheeda Begum, 60, told AFP from her home.

“I am a widow and have four small kids. I don’t have any other source of income and I am really worried because my house was damaged by Indian shelling.”

The summer season usually sees tourists from across Pakistan flock to the pristine Himalayan valley, but officials in Kashmir said hotels and guest houses stood empty as people shied away from entering the area.

Meanwhile, a protester died after being chased by police during a curfew in Kashmir’s main city, left in turmoil by an Indian government move to tighten control over the restive region, a police official said.

The death was confirmed by police after the government passed a presidential decree on stripping the Muslim majority state of its longstanding semi-autonomous privileges.

Despite a paralyzing curfew, imposed to head off unrest, sporadic protests have been reported by residents in the main city Srinagar.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that in one incident a youth being chased by police “jumped into the Jhelum river and died.”

The incident happened in Srinagar’s old town which has become a hotbed of anti-India protests during the three decade-long insurgency in Kashmir that has left tens of thousands dead.

A source told AFP that at least six people have been admitted to hospital in Srinagar with gunshot wounds and other injuries from protests.

AFP

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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