Thousands protest in occupied Kashmir over new status despite clampdown
SRINAGAR (Reuters) - Indian police used tear gas and pellets to disperse at least 10,000 Kashmiri people protesting Delhi’s withdrawal of special rights for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state in its main city of Srinagar on Friday, a police official and two witnesses said.
The demonstration soon after Friday prayers was the largest since authorities locked down the revolt-torn region five days ago, cutting off telephone and internet services and detaining more than 500 political and other leaders.
India this week had scrapped occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s right to frame its own laws and allowed non-residents to buy property there.
A large group of people gathered in Srinagar’s Soura area. The crowd was pushed back by police at Aiwa bridge, where a witness said tear gas and pellets were used against them.
“Some women and children even jumped into the water,” a witness said at Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, where pellet victims were admitted.
“They (police) attacked us from two sides,” another witness said. The police officer said 12 people had been admitted to two hospitals in the city after receiving pellet injuries at Soura, taking the total injured in the protests this week to at least 30.
“There were around 10,000 people at the protest in Soura,” the police officer said. “This was the biggest so far.”
Thousands of extra paramilitary police were deployed across Kashmir just before the sweeping measures were announced on Monday to prevent large-scale protests.
A police officer, who requested anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media, said that political detentions in the wake of the Modi government’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s special rights were continuing.
“Over 500 people are now arrested since Sunday,” he said, including former chief ministers, ministers, lawmakers and leaders and workers from political parties and separatist groups.
Pakistan has already downgraded diplomatic ties with India and suspended trade in anger at its latest move.
On Friday, senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said China was gravely concerned about the situation in Kashmir, the cause of two of three wars between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.
Wang met Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Beijing and assured him that China would continue to support Pakistan to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
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