New Delhi isolates Kashmir: tensions rise with Islamabad

Panic among residents.  The latest frictions with Pakistan began 10 days ago, after India deployed over 10,000 soldiers in the disputed region.  About 20,000 tourists and pilgrims are evacuated.  The army accuses Pakistani rivals of having attempted an incursion yesterday.  Islamabad: "Unjustified accusation".


New Delhi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Political leaders under house arrest, public gatherings banned, telephone lines and internet interrupted: starting from the early hours of this morning the authorities of India administered Kashmir  have isolated most of the disputed region, while New Delhi is sending tens of thousands of additional troops and reports armed clashes on the border with Pakistan.  The measures have caused a growing panic among residents, with long queues outside petrol stations, grocery stores and ATMs.

The Himalayan region has returned to the limelight in recent days, a few months after the attack claimed by a group of Pakistani Islamists against an Indian paramilitary convoy in Srinagar, the largest city in the state.  On February 14, a car packed with explosives detonated as soldiers passed, causing more than 40 deaths and several injuries, the worst attack ever carried out against soldiers of the Indian army in Kashmir.  The incident provoked skirmishes between the armed forces of India and Pakistan, both in possession of a nuclear arsenal.

Recent tensions began in the last 10 days after New Delhi deployed at least 10,000 soldiers in Kashmir.  Local sources say that another 70,000 were deployed later.  The government has introduced new security measures in India's only predominantly Islamic state, citing terrorist threats.  The army said yesterday it had foiled an attempt by a Pakistani team of regular soldiers and militants to cross the Line of Control, killing "5-7" attackers.  Because of terrorist threats, at least 20,000 people, including tourists and pilgrims, have been evacuated from the sacred area of ​​Mount Amarnath.

Pakistan described the accusation as "groundless" and accused India of using cluster bombs against civilians, killing four people and wounding 11 others. The Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, accused India of undertaking  "New aggressive actions", warning that these could "explode in a regional crisis".

A few hours after the implementation of the latest security measures, the New Delhi government announced in parliament a plan to lift Article 370 of the Constitution, which recognizes special privileges to Kashmir administered by India.  The Bharatiya Janata Party (Bjp), the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has long been pushing for ending the special constitutional status of Kashmir - the country's only Islamic majority territory -claiming that these laws had hindered its integration with the rest  India.  Political leaders in Kashmir have always warned that the repeal of the law would trigger widespread unrest.