Supporters of Jammu Kashmir Islamic Political Party shout anti-India slogans in Islamabad on Monday. AP
Phone and internet services were suspended in Indian Kashmir on Monday and state leaders placed under house arrest, deepening fears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government plans to weaken the special rights of residents in the disputed region.
The clampdown began in the early hours of Monday when Indian authorities said they were imposing restrictions on public movement and shutting all educational institutions in the main Srinagar city.
There has been no word on the clampdown from the federal government in New Delhi, which rules the troubled state since last year after Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) withdrew from a coalition with a local party.
The federal cabinet meeting was held at Modi’s residence on Monday to discuss the situation, and Indian media said the government was likely to make a statement in parliament on the situation in Kashmir later in the day.
Some regional leaders around midnight tweeted saying they have been or feared being arrested.
The leaders had previously expressed fears that Modi’s federal government may try to withdraw decades-old special rights conferred on the state, including an amendment to the Indian constitution that prevents people from outside the state from buying property there.
There have also been concerns that Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP could move to abolish Kashmir’s autonomous status, a plan that has in the past provoked warnings of a backlash in the Muslim-majority state.
Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of the state, said he believed he was being placed under house arrest, appealing to people to stay calm.
Mehbooba Mufti, another ex-chief minister and Modi’s former ally, said it was “ironic that elected representatives like us who fought for peace are under house arrest.”
A spokesman for India’s federal home ministry in New Delhi did not respond to a request for comment.
“To place two former Chief Ministers under house arrest is unprecedented and unacceptable. Would it happen in any other state of India? Is this how we build trust among the Kashmiris?” prominent historian and columnist Ramachandra Guha said on Twitter.
Tensions in Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, have risen since Friday, when local Indian officials issued an alert over possible militant attacks by Pakistan-based groups.
Pakistan has rejected those assertions, but thousands of Indian tourists, pilgrims and workers left the region in panic over the weekend.
Indian authorities also issued a notice for Srinagar city saying there “shall be no movement of (the) public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed” until further orders.
Three local government officials told Reuters early on Monday that mobile internet services in the region had been suspended. Reuters was not able to reach its reporters in the region as the communication networks were blocked.
Several hours of shooting rocked the Pulwama district, south of Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, after officials said four soldiers, a policeman, three militants and a civilian were killed in the latest clash.
An army major was among the dead, along with three militants from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group which claimed last week's attack, military and police officials said.
Six senior army men including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel were injured in the hours-long gun battle, a police official told AFP.
Pakistani airspace on its eastern border with India will remain closed until June 14, a civil aviation official said on Wednesday, the latest extension months after a standoff between the arch rivals.
Indian authorities on Tuesday deployed hundreds of police and suspended the internet in a northern town where the brutal murder of a two-year-old girl has flared up inter-religious tensions.
Daughters are often seen as a burden, with families having to pay dowries when they marry, while sons are prized as breadwinners who can inherit property and continue the family name.
US-based economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer won the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday for work in fighting global poverty that has helped millions of children by favouring practical steps over theory.
Russian President meetse Saudi King and Crown Prince as he seeks to cement Moscow's political and energy ties across the Mideast.