India, Srinagar: Yesterday, Indian authorities detained dozens of Kashmiri activists and placed separatist leaders under house arrest to prevent them from holding anti-India protests to mark the anniversary of a top separatist leader’s hanging more than three decades ago. Shops and businesses remained shut and a curfew was in effect in some areas of Srinagar, the main city in Kashmir, after a strike was called by separatists.
Most people stayed indoors while hundreds of armed police and paramilitary soldiers patrolled largely deserted streets blocked by razor wire and barricades. Resident Reyaz Ahmed said, Government forces “came in the norming and ordered us to stay indoors”. Pro-independence leader Mohammed Maqbool Butt was hanged in a New Delhi jail in 1984 after being convicted of killing an Indian intelligence officer.
A similar strike and government shutdown had closed Srinagar and other Kashmir towns Tuesday as activists protested India’s secret execution of another Kashmiri man, Mohammed Afzal Guru, three years ago in the same New Delhi jail for a 2001 attack on India’s Parliament that killed 14 people, including five gunmen. Most Kashmiris believe he was not given a fair trial. Separatists also demand that the two men’s remains, buried within the New Delhi jail compound, be returned to Kashmir for proper burial.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir where rebel groups have fought since 1989 for either independence or a merger with neighboring Pakistan. India and Pakistan each administer a portion of Kashmir. Both claim the region in its entirety. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and ensuing Indian military crackdown.