Mon. 9:06 a.m.: Troops let Muslims walk to mosques in Indian-ruled Kashmir
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Troops in India-administered Kashmir allowed some Muslims to walk to local mosques alone or in pairs to pray for the Eid al-Adha festival today during an unprecedented security lockdown that still forced most people in the disputed region to stay indoors on the Islamic holy day.
Some protesters demonstrated against the Indian government’s surprise revocation of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status last week. All communications and the internet remained cut off for an eighth day. The streets were deserted, with authorities not allowing any large groups to gather to avoid anti-India protests.
“Our hearts are on fire,” said Habibullah Bhat, 75, who said he came to offer prayers despite his failing health. “India has thrown us into the dark ages, but God is on our side and our resistance will win.”
Hundreds of worshippers gathered on a street in a neighborhood in Srinagar after the prayers and chanted “We want freedom” and “Go India, Go back,” witnesses said. Officials said the protest ended peacefully.
Kashmir police said in a tweet that Eid festival prayers “concluded peacefully in various parts of the (Kashmir) Valley. No untoward incident reported so far.” Independent verification of events in the region was difficult because of the communications shutdown.
India’s foreign ministry shared photos of people visiting mosques but didn’t specify where the photos were taken within the region, which New Delhi downgraded from a state to two federal territories a week ago.
Vijay Keshav Gokhale, the ministry’s top diplomat, said communications restrictions “will be gradually eased when we feel the law and order situation improves.”
He said most mosques were open but some were not for security reasons.
He told reporters there were “no reports of starvation” and that medical facilities, utilities and banking services were functioning normally.
The security lockdown in India’s only Muslim-majority region is expected to last through Thursday, India’s independence day. The restrictions had been briefly eased for Friday prayers last week and for shopping ahead of Eid.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed support for people in the Indian-administered portion of Kashmir to have self-determination. Both visited the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir for Eid.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir, and the first one ended in 1948 with a promise of a U.N.-sponsored referendum in the territory. It has never been held.