SRINAGAR: Authorities ordered a curfew in parts of India-held Kashmir on Friday after hundreds of activists were arrested on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the disputed region.
In the main city of Srinagar shops and schools remained shut, university exams were cancelled for the day and public transport was suspended as hundreds of police and paramilitary forces patrolled the streets.
Mr Modi is scheduled to address a public rally in Srinagar on Saturday, where he is expected to announce economic assistance, more than a year after massive flooding inflicted $16 billion worth of damage across the territory.
“Restrictions were imposed to prevent breach of peace before the prime minister’s rally,” a senior police officer said. Nearly 300 activists have been arrested, another police officer said.
Security has been beefed up ahead of Mr Modi’s visit, with the disputed region already tense following incidents of religious intolerance and attacks on minorities in many parts of India.
“I was not allowed to go to work because of the soldiers on the street outside my home,” Waheed Ahmed, a mason living in the old city area of Srinagar said by phone.
After Mr Modi’s rally was announced earlier in the week, police detained all top Kashmiri leaders or confined them to their homes, local media reports said.
Authorities denied permission for a rally, dubbed Million March, called by Kashmiri groups on Saturday to press their demands for self-determination and freedom from Indian rule.
Some Kashmiri leaders remained defiant, however.
“Our Million March will go ahead, come what may,” Syed Ali Geelani, the veteran leader who called for the counter-rally said in a statement.
An armed campaign against Indian rule of the territory and the subsequent crackdown by the authorities since 1989 has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.