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Uneasy calm in Indian Kashmir on second anniversary of loss of autonomy

·2 min read

By Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR, India, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Troops patrolled the streets on Thursday in Srinagar, the main city of Indian Kashmir, where many shops were shut to mark the second year since the Himalayan region was stripped of its autonomy.

In 2019, in an effort to bind the restive region closer to the rest of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government withdrew long-standing constitutional privileges accorded to the country's only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The measure also split the state into two federal territories including the remote Buddhist-dominated Ladakh region, which further angered Kashmiris.

Troops manned checkpoints in parts of Srinagar, which has been a hotbed of separatist activity, carrying out security checks on people and vehicles, witnesses said.

However, Kashmir's police chief, Vijay Kumar, told Reuters that no extra security measures had been levied, adding that conditions were normal, including Internet links, often severed in the past to forestall protests.

"But our surveillance system has been increased," he added, without giving details.

Militants have battled India's rule in Kashmir for more than three decades, a revolt it blames Pakistan for having stoked. Islamabad denies this, saying it provides only moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people.

In Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, President Arif Alvi led a solidarity rally outside parliament house and demanded that India restore Kashmiris' rights.

"I warn India not to play with fire and (to) give Kashmiris their due rights, which has been pledged by the United Nations," he said.

A grouping of political parties in Kashmir, the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, said it would keep up its struggle for restoration of partial autonomy.

However, a minister in Modi's office, Jitendra Singh, said Kashmir was better off fully integrated with India, where its special laws had resulted in an unhealthy divide.

"Today such distinctions are history," he wrote in the Indian Express newspaper. (Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar, Shree Sardar in Islamabad; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Clarence Fernandez)

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