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  • A man with pellet injuries lies in a hospital bed after he was injured during clashes between the Indian police and protesters during restrictions after Indian government scrapped special status for Kashmir, in Srinagar August 9, 2019.

    A man with pellet injuries lies in a hospital bed after he was injured during clashes between the Indian police and protesters during restrictions after Indian government scrapped special status for Kashmir, in Srinagar August 9, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 August 2019
Opinion

Thousands of extra paramilitary police were deployed across Kashmir just before the sweeping measures were announced on Monday to prevent large-scale protests.

Indian police used tear gas and pellets to fight back at least 10,000 people protesting Delhi's withdrawal of special rights for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state in its main city of Srinagar, Friday, says a police official and witnesses.

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The demonstration soon after Friday prayers was the largest since authorities locked down the revolt-torn region five days ago, cutting off telephone and internet services and detaining more than 500 political and separatist leaders.

Seeking to tighten its grip on the region also claimed by neighboring Pakistan, India this week scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's right to frame its own laws and allowed non-residents to buy property there, further stripping Kashmir's autonomy and sovereignty.

Regional leaders have warned of a potential backlash in the area, where militants have been fighting Indian rule for nearly 30 years, that has seen the deaths of more than 50,000 people during the ongoing conflict.

A large group of people gathered in Srinagar's Soura area, a police officer said, in violation of orders that prohibit the assembly of more than four people.

The crowd was pushed back by police at Aiwa bridge where a witness said police authorities used tear gas and pellets on them. "Some women and children even jumped into the water," a witness said at Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, where pellet victims were admitted.

"They (police) attacked us from two sides," another witness said. A police officer said 12 people had been admitted to two hospitals in the city after receiving pellet injuries at Soura, taking the total injured in the protests this week to at least 30.

"There were around 10,000 people at the protest in Soura," the police officer said. "This was the biggest so far."

The police officer, who requested anonymity since he is not authorized to speak to the media, said that political detentions in the wake of the Modi government's decision to revoke Kashmir's special rights were continuing.

"Over 500 people are now arrested since Sunday," he said, including former chief ministers, ministers, lawmakers and leaders and workers from political parties and separatist groups.

Modi's party and even some top opposition leaders have welcomed the decision to absorb Kashmir fully into India, and it has brought him support across the country.

Officials are hoping Kashmir anger at the Indian move will die down. The top administrative official of the Kashmir Valley, Baseer Khan, said that essential commodities including food, grains and meat, would be trucked into villages by Sunday.

Khan added that all medical services in the valley were working normally, although when Reuters visited two major hospitals and a smaller facility, officials said that doctors and staff were having difficulties reaching work.

On Friday, senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said China was gravely concerned about the situation in Kashmir, the cause of two of three wars between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.

Wang met Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Beijing and assured him that China would continue to support Pakistan to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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