Hundreds arrested in India-run Kashmir during ongoing clampdown

A petition was filed Thursday in India’s top court challenging the communications blackout and security clampdown in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where people remained holed up in their homes for a fourth day.

Indian authorities have detained at least 300 politicians and separatists to quell protests in India-run Kashmir over the withdrawal of its special status, a police officer, local leaders and media said.

State-run All India Radio also reported cross-border firing by Indian and Pakistani troops in the Rajouri sector of India-run Kashmir late Wednesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address the nation on Thursday to discuss Kashmir.

India’s government this week revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and downgraded the Himalayan region from statehood to a territory. Muslim-majority Kashmir is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, and rebels have been fighting Indian rule in the portion it administers for decades.

Watch as India-run Kashmir remains under tight security:

The streets in the city of Srinagar were largely deserted amid an ongoing security clampdown and communications blackout in India-run Kashmir. 0:59

India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval visited Kashmir on Wednesday to assess the law and order situation.

Activist Ali Mohammed told the New Delhi Television news channel that he has been organizing ambulances to carry sick poor people to hospitals in Srinagar, the main city in India’s portion of Kashmir, as local residents can’t even use phones to ask for medical help.

“It’s hell,” a patient told the television channel.

Congress party activist Tehseen Poonawalla said he expected the Supreme Court to hear his petition on Thursday seeking immediate lifting of curfew and other restrictions, including blocking of phone lines, internet and news channels in Kashmir.

He also sought the immediate release of Kashmiri leaders who have been detained, including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

India urges Pakistan to review decision to downgrade ties

In response to India’s action, Pakistan on Wednesday said it would downgrade its diplomatic ties with India, expel the Indian ambassador and suspend bilateral trade. Prime Minister Imran Khan told Pakistan’s National Security Committee that his government will use all diplomatic channels “to expose the brutal Indian racist regime” and human rights violations in Kashmir, the government’s statement said.

India said it regretted Pakistan’s steps, adding in a statement that “the intention behind these measures is obviously to present an alarming picture to the world of our bilateral ties.”

Indian paramilitary soldiers stop a Kashmiri man on a scooter on Wednesday during the curfew in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir. (Farooq Khan/EPA-EFE)

The External Affairs Ministry said it was not surprising that Pakistan has negatively perceived India’s decision to end Kashmir’s special status as Islamabad “has used such sentiments to justify its cross-border terrorism.”‘

Describing India’s latest steps in Kashmir as internal affairs, the statement urged Pakistan to review its decision to downgrade ties so that normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved.’

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence over control of Kashmir. The first war ended in 1948 with a United Nation-brokered cease-fire that left Kashmir divided and promised its people a UN-sponsored referendum on the region’s future.

Pakistan said it would ask the UN to pressure India to reverse its decision to downgrade the Indian-administered portion of Muslim-majority Kashmir from a state to two separate territories. The region also lost its right to fly its own flag and make many of its own decisions.

The government in Islamabad also said it would give diplomatic, political and moral support to people living in Kashmir and their “right of self-determination.”

Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority state and most people there oppose Indian rule. The insurgency that began in 1989 and India’s ensuing crackdown have killed more than 70,000 people.

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