At least 500 incidents of protest have broken out in Indian Kashmir since New Delhi revoked its autonomy more than three weeks ago, a senior government source told AFP Wednesday, as authorities promised to create 50,000 jobs in the restive region.
The Himalayan valley is under a strict lockdown, imposed hours before India’s decision to bring Kashmir under its direct rule. Movement is restricted and phone and internet services have been cut.
The lockdown, as well as the deployment of tens of thousands of extra troops to reinforce the 500,000 based in Kashmir, was ordered amid fears of unrest in a region where separatists have waged an armed rebellion against Indian rule since 1989.
But protests have broken out, including in the main city of Srinagar, with police using pellet guns and tear gas to disperse the crowds.
A senior government source told AFP at least 500 protests and incidents of stone throwing have occurred since August 5, with more than half taking place in Srinagar.
Nearly 100 civilians have been injured so far, with a further 300 police and more than 100 paramilitary troopers hurt, the official added.
“The number of protests could be much higher and bigger without the blockade in force,” the official told AFP, adding that “anger and public defiance is constantly rising”.
“Efforts for easing the conditions are made all the time but nothing seems to be working for now. There is nervousness spreading in the security establishment.”
– ‘Every life is valuable’ –
Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik said Wednesday the lockdown was necessary because “every Kashmiri life is valuable to us”.
“There has been no civilian casualty, only the few who got violent were injured, these also have below the waist (non-fatal) injuries.”
AFP has spoken to relatives of three people they alleged died due to violence from the security forces, including a man and woman who died in separate incidents after tear gas was released near them, and a teenager who drowned while being chased by police.
Malik added that the decision to revoke autonomy — which will allow non-residents to buy land and apply for government jobs in the region — would “change the face of Kashmir in six months”.