Thousands protest in Kashmir over new status

Vastavam web: 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 on Friday, a police official and two witnesses said. 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 neighbouring Pakistan, India this week scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s right to frame its own laws and allowed non-residents to buy property there. 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 tear gas and pellets were used against 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. “There were around 10,000 people at the protest in Soura,” the police officer said. “This was the biggest so far.”

Thousands of extra paramilitary police were deployed across Kashmir just before the sweeping measures were announced on Monday to prevent large-scale protests. Addressing the nation on Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had acted in Kashmir to help develop the region and that he hoped it would lead to investment and more job opportunities.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, played down the unrest, which he suggested was temporary. “Just outside Srinagar things have really come back to normal,” he said.