India hails 'historic' Kashmir rule, Pakistan vows to back region

AFP , Tuesday 6 Aug 2019

India's government on Tuesday hailed "historic" legislation to bring Kashmir under its direct control, as Pakistan vowed to back the Muslim-majority region and challenge the divisive move which has seen tensions soar.

New Delhi stripped Kashmir of its autonomous status via a presidential decree Monday, hours after imposing a massive security lockdown in the restive state to quell any unrest.

Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah, a powerful aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, compared the decision to other "historic moments" in the nation, adding that the law should be "written with golden words in Indian history".

"The great parliament which has expressed its views on unity and integrity of India so many times today is once again going to deliberate on a bill that will go on to further integrate Jammu and Kashmir to India for many generations ahead," he told parliament.

His declaration came as reports emerged Tuesday of sporadic protests and at least six people admitted to a hospital in the main city Srinagar with gunshot wounds and other injuries, a source at the facility said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed Tuesday to challenge India's decision at the UN security council and accused Modi of violating international law in pursuit of an anti-Muslim agenda in India.

"If the world does not act today... (if) the developed world does not uphold its own laws, then things will go to a place that we will not be responsible for," Khan added.

Pakistan's military added that it "firmly stands" by Kashmiris following a meeting by the army's top commanders in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Kashmir leaders detained

Indian-administered Kashmir has been in the grip of a bloody rebellion against Indian rule since 1989, and analysts have warned the scrapping of its autonomous status could trigger fresh protests.

The region has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947, and both the sides claim the territory, over which they have fought two wars.

Earlier, national security adviser Ajit Doval said in a report to his department that there was "peace and normalcy" and "no agitation" in Kashmir after the announcement, local media reported.

But with mobile and internet shut down and Kashmir virtually cut off from the outside world since the early hours of Monday, there was limited news emerging from the region.

A traveller who arrived in India's capital New Delhi on Tuesday from Srinagar told AFP on condition of anonymity that he had heard "intermittent gunfire" and other weapons since Monday.

He said he heard soldiers shouting during the night, while government troops were deployed at "every five steps".

"My car was checked at least 25 times on the way to the airport and it took me almost four hours to cover a distance of hardly 30 minutes," he said.

India has also sought to clamp down on other sources of dissent, with three Kashmir political leaders detained after a court order seen by AFP on Tuesday said they had engaged in activities "likely to cause breach of peace" and lead to a "serious law and order situation".

Initially placed under house arrest at the weekend, former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah along with regional party leader Sajad Lone were reportedly then taken to an official guest house on Monday.

The court order also said authorities feared the trio could organise a public rally which is currently banned in Kashmir as part of the emergency lockdown.

 'Abuse of executive power'

Criticism mounted from opposition politicians on Tuesday, with Rahul Gandhi, until recently the head of the main opposition Congress party, saying the decision was an "abuse of executive power" that had "grave implications for our national security".

"National integration isn't furthered by unilaterally tearing apart J&K, imprisoning elected representatives and violating our Constitution. This nation is made by its people, not plots of land," he wrote on Twitter.

Monday's decree, rushed through by Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, removed from the constitution the special status that Kashmir had held after the region was divided between India and Pakistan in 1947.

The changes ended special privileges for Kashmiris in regards to owning property and reserved jobs.


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