SRINAGAR: Big queues formed in Indian-administered Kashmir’s main city on Saturday outside cash machines and food stores as authorities eased a crippling curfew to let the Himalayan region prepare for a major Muslim festival, residents said, reports AFP.
But huge numbers of troops remained on the streets a day after security forces used tear gas to break up a demonstration by about 8,000 people against the government’s move to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy, they added.The Eid al-Azha festival on Monday looms as the next big test for the week-old Indian lockdown in the Muslim-majority region, where the government has ended decades-old rights to property and jobs for local Kashmiris.
Internet and phone lines have been cut and curfew restrictions have been imposed to prevent unrest over the constitutional move which Prime Minister Narendra Modi said was needed to bring peace and prosperity to the troubled region.
More cars and pedestrians were on the streets Saturday.
“We can do more but it is still tough, everyone is closely watched,” said one resident. “Our lives are still dominated by razor wire and checkpoints.”
“Bank machines are running out of cash so there are queues at every machine where notes may be available. People also need food for Eid,” added a second resident.
Modi said in a nationwide speech this week that Kashmir people would have “no problem” for the festival.But media reports said authorities would only decide Sunday whether restrictions would be eased for what is one of the most important Muslim festivals of the year.
After weekly prayers on Friday, about 8,000 people gathered for a protest on the edge of Srinagar that was broken up by security forces with tear gas and shotgun pellets, residents said.
“About 12 people were hurt, but none seriously,” said one witness.
The home ministry denied any protest took place.
Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947. Both have fought two wars over the former kingdom. An insurgency against New Delhi’s rule in Indian-administered Kashmir has claimed tens of thousands of lives in the past three decades.
Islamabad has been infuriated by New Delhi’s moves and has expelled the Indian ambassador and halted the little bilateral trade between the arch-rivals.
Pakistani ministers have also halted cross-border transport services and the last trains and buses crossed the frontier on Saturday.
The last Friendship bus left New Delhi early Saturday carrying just two passengers for the trip to the Pakistani city of Lahore.
The service had been running since 1999 except for a two-year suspension after a militant attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 carried out by two Pakistan-based groups.
A Pakistan Tourism Department official in Lahore told AFP: “Today was the last day for the Friendship bus service. The bus service is suspended until further notice, we are making refunds to all passengers.”
The last Thar Express train also left the Rajasthan city of Jodhpur early Saturday but had to wait more than 12 hours to get clearance to cross the border, officials said.
The train has run every Friday night since 2006 from Jodhpur to Karachi. It is one of two rail services to cross the frontier between the rival states. The Samjhauta Express was halted on Thursday by Pakistan’s Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed.
“As long as I am railway minister, the Samjhauta Express and the Thar Express will not operate,” he vowed to reporters on Saturday.