Kashmir region on lockdown for Modi visit

Published December 8, 2014
Narendra Modi addresses supporters during a rally in Jammu, India. — AP/File
Narendra Modi addresses supporters during a rally in Jammu, India. — AP/File
Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard as Kashmiri Muslim school girls walk past outside the state assembly in Srinagar.— AFP/File
Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard as Kashmiri Muslim school girls walk past outside the state assembly in Srinagar.— AFP/File

SRINAGAR: Separatists called for a strike on Monday across the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was due to lead a campaign rally for local elections.

The mountain region, where anti-India sentiment runs deep among the mostly Muslim population, was on high alert with snipers on rooftops, road barricades and sniffer dogs near campaign rally venues in the main city of Srinagar.

  India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) disembarks from an Indian Air Force helicopter upon his arrival to address an election campaign rally on the outskirts of Jammu. — Reuters
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) disembarks from an Indian Air Force helicopter upon his arrival to address an election campaign rally on the outskirts of Jammu. — Reuters

On Sunday night, a suspected rebel hurled a grenade that injured one soldier at a paramilitary post in the southern town of Tral, police said.

Authorities imposed a daytime curfew Monday in some parts of Srinagar, barring residents from leaving their homes.

Main roads leading into Srinagar were lined with razor wire to contain traffic, and police and paramilitary soldiers were patrolling on foot and in armored vehicles.

Officials said they were taking no risks with Modi arriving midday Monday before the fractious region holds a third day of voting Tuesday to elect a regional legislature.

The elections are being held in five stages to allow government forces to better guard against any violence or anti-India protests that erupt.

Results are due Dec. 23. Pro-India Kashmiri parties say the elections will boost development and infrastructure, while separatists say the polls are an illegitimate exercise under Indian military occupation.

In recent days, authorities have detained hundreds of separatist leaders and activists who have called for an election boycott.

  An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard on a deserted street during a curfew in Srinagar. — AFP
An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard on a deserted street during a curfew in Srinagar. — AFP

On Monday, All Parties Hurriyat Conference urged workers to go on strike in order to “send a clear message to Indian leadership that Kashmiris have never accepted the dominance and hegemony of Indian union and they would decide their political future only through right to self-determination.“

Modi was scheduled to speak at a campaign rally for his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

The rally was being held in a sports stadium — festooned with orange BJP flags and huge banners showing Modi's face.

It will be Modi's third visit in a month, as he has been campaigning heavily in hopes of helping his party win a first-ever majority in India's only Muslim-majority state.

Rebel groups in Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown that has suppressed most rebel activity.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over rival claims to Kashmir.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting the militants with arms and trainings, while Islamabad staunchly denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support for their cause.

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