India temporarily eases Kashmir curfew as Eid approaches
Big queues formed in Indian-administered Kashmir's main city, Srinagar, on Saturday outside cash machines and food stores as authorities eased a crippling curfew to let the disputed region prepare for the Muslim festival, residents said.
But huge numbers of troops remained on the streets a day after security forces used tear gas to break up a demonstration by about 8,000 people against the government's move to revoke Kashmir's autonomy, they added.
The indefinite curfew has been in place for seven days now. More than 500 Kashmiris have also been detained by Indian authorities.
The Eid al-Adha festival, which will be celebrated in Kashmir on Monday, looms as the next big test for the suffocating Indian lockdown in the Muslim-majority region, where the government has ended decades-old rights to property and jobs for local Kashmiris.
Internet and phone lines have been cut and curfew restrictions have been imposed to prevent unrest over the constitutional move which Prime Minister Narendra Modi said was needed to bring peace and prosperity to the troubled region.
More cars and pedestrians were on the streets Saturday.
"We can do more but it is still tough, everyone is closely watched," said one resident. "Our lives are still dominated by razor wire and checkpoints."
"Bank machines are running out of cash so there are queues at every machine where notes may be available. People also need food for Eid," added a second resident.
Modi said in a speech this week that Kashmiri people would have "no problem" for the festival.
But media reports said authorities would only decide Sunday whether restrictions would be eased for what is one of the most important Muslim festivals of the year.
After weekly prayers on Friday, about 8,000 people gathered for a protest on the edge of Srinagar that was broken up by security forces with tear gas and shotgun pellets, residents said.
"About 12 people were hurt, but none seriously," said one witness.
The home ministry denied that any protest took place.
Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947. The two countries have fought two wars over the region.
For decades, India has refused to abide by a 1948 UN resolution saying that Kashmiris should be allowed to determine the region’s fate through a plebiscite.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed ever since an insurgency against New Delhi's rule began in Indian-administered Kashmir in 1989.
Pakistan has been infuriated by India’s moves, expelling the Indian high commissioner and halting the little bilateral trade between the arch-rivals.
Pakistani ministers have also halted cross-border transport services and the last trains and buses crossed the frontier on Saturday.
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