By Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Authorities in Indian Kashmir tightened restrictions on people’s movements on Saturday to prevent possible protests triggered by a speech by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Khan, in an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, warned there would be a bloodbath once India lifts its restrictions in Kashmir which have been in force since it revoked the region’s decades-old autonomy in August and detained thousands of people.
Soon after the speech, hundreds of Kashmiris came out of their homes, shouting slogans in support of Khan late on Friday night and calling for the independence of Kashmir.
On Saturday, police vans fitted with speakers made public announcements in some parts of Srinagar about movement restrictions, while additional troops were deployed to prevent any protests, according to officials and two witnesses.
The troops also blocked access to the main business centre of Srinagar with razor wire.
“This was necessitated after protests across Srinagar city last night soon after Imran Khan’s speech,” said a police official, who declined to be identified.
Muslim-majority Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars over the divided territory. Both countries rule parts of Kashmir while claiming it in full.
India’s crackdown as it revoked Kashmir’s special status was accompanied by severe restrictions on movement, as well as disconnection of telephone services. Though New Delhi has eased some of the movement curbs, no prominent detainees have been freed and mobile and internet connections remain suspended.
While warning of the consequences of lifting what he described as an “inhuman curfew,” Pakistani premier Khan demanded India do so and free all detainees.
In some areas in Kashmir — including the Soura region near Srinagar which has witnessed protests in the past against India’s decision — people clashed with security forces by pelting stones on Friday night, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse them, said the Indian official.
Khan addressed the United Nations a day after the senior U.S. diplomat for South Asia called for a lowering of rhetoric between India and Pakistan, while saying that Washington hoped to see rapid action by India to lift restrictions it has imposed in Kashmir and the release of detainees there.
(Additional reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Aditya Kalra & Kim Coghill)