India imposes Kashmir lockdown, puts leaders ‘under house arrest’

Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir – Parts of India-administered Kashmir have been placed under lockdown and local politicians reportedly arrested as tensions intensify in the disputed region following a massive deployment of troops by the Indian government.

“As per the order there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed,” a statement by the government of Jammu and Kashmir, which is currently under the central rule, said on Sunday night.

The order said the indefinite security restrictions will be applicable in the main district of Srinagar.
Indian media reports said some pro-India leaders from the region, including former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, have been placed under house arrest.

The measures came after the Indian government moved 10,000 troops to the region last week, followed by an unprecedented order asking tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave the Himalayan valley.
Residents fear New Delhi is planning to engineer “demographic changes” in India’s only Muslim-majority region by scrapping a law that prohibits outsiders from buying land in India-administered Kashmir.

-Panic and fear among residents-

Saniya Nisar, 28, is anxious and uncertain about her wedding scheduled on August 17. Exhaustive preparations have been made. But her family has no idea what is in store in the next few days.

“Our lives are at stake,” said Nisar. “We don’t know what is going to happen. It is like a war is going to happen.”

The recent measures citing “terror threats” sparked fear and panic among the residents in India-administered Kashmir, which witnesses near-daily clashes between the rebels and security forces.
On Sunday, long queues were seen outside petrol stations, food and medical stores, and ATMs in the main city of Srinagar as residents rushed to stock fast depleting supplies before the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Azha which falls on August 12.

Many residents told Al Jazeera that after the advisories were issued, they lost interest in the festivity and were instead working on stockpiling essential rations and fuel.
Some of the government orders issued in the past week included directions to the doctors to remain prepared, to non-local students to leave for home, and district administrators to remain on standby.

-‘Uncertain future’-

Even as the Kashmir valley witnesses frequent spells of unrest, the latest tension has left many worried about an “uncertain future”.

Nisar Ahmad said he lost his last job with a Srinagar-based pharmaceutical company, which shut its business following the widespread unrest in 2016.

A father of two children, Ahmad feared he will again become jobless if the current situation deteriorates.

Abdul Rasheed, a houseboat owner at the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar, looked visibly distressed on Saturday while dozens of trucks with armed forces passed the road.

The boats, which take tourists on a joyride, were empty, while houseboats that were booked for months had been vacated.

“We have a loan to pay. We are at the beginning of the [tourist] season and we are unsure of what to do,” he said.

“Some tourists feel sad for us and do not want to leave, but we insist that they go because we do not know what India is planning here.”

Another boatman, Mushtaq Ahmad, said 1,200 houseboat owners in Dal Lake and more than 3,000 boatmen depend on tourism for their livelihoods.

“What is the government going to do for us?” he asked.

Credits: AlJazeera.

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