Authorities yesterday reimposed some restrictions in parts of Kashmir ahead of Eid al-Adha, amid fears that large gatherings could trigger renewed protests against Delhi’s withdrawal of special rights for the region.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government locked down the Muslim-majority region last Sunday, cutting off communications, detaining more than 300 political leaders and activists, and putting a ‘virtual curfew’ into force with numerous police and army roadblocks stopping movement by many residents.
On Friday, restrictions on movement in some parts of the Himalayan region’s main city of Srinagar were relaxed, with people pouring out on to the streets to stock up on provisions.
Yesterday, a Reuters reporter saw a police van driving around one part of Srinagar announcing that restrictions had been imposed again and asking people to stay indoors.
Police checkpoints were also placed on some roads leading to the old quarter of the city, a traditional hotbed of protests, and some streets in central Srinagar.
Officials were debating how to handle today’s Eid-al-Adha festival which typically sees several thousands throng major mosques in Srinagar.
Officials were to hold a video-conference with senior police and administration officials from all 10 districts in the valley to decide on restrictions, two senior state government officials told Reuters.
“We will make an assessment of the situation,” one official said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media. “I do not think we will allow large gatherings.”
Dilbag Singh, the Jammu and Kashmir director general of police, told Reuters yesterday that between 1,000 and 1,500 people were returning from praying at mosques on Friday when “some miscreants” started pelting stones at security officials.
“It was a reaction to stone pelting by these miscreants that one or two rounds of pump action gun was fired,” Singh said, adding that four to five men suffered injuries.
Authorities had detained around 300 local leaders in total and some of them had been taken out of Kashmir, he said.
Blocked off from the world and largely unable to work or socialise, many Kashmiris were sombre ahead of today’s festival.
Some said they would not partake in the ritual sacrificing of sheep.
“What kind of Eid is this?” said one elderly man walking down a street in downtown Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid area.
“We cannot reach our loves ones, we cannot visit our relatives’ homes, then what are we celebrating?” he said, declining to be named.