Authorities have imposed a curfew in Indian-administered Kashmir, a day ahead of the first anniversary of India’s controversial decision to revoke the disputed region’s semi-autonomy.
Officials announced a two-day “full curfew” on Monday citing intelligence reports of looming protests in the Muslim-majority region of seven million people, where locals have called for the anniversary to be marked as a “black day”.
Police vehicles patrolled the main city of Srinagar after dark on Monday and again on Tuesday morning, with officers using megaphones to order residents to remain indoors.
New razor-wire and steel barricades were placed on main roads on Srinagar, and on Tuesday thousands of government troops fanned across the city and surrounding villages.
“Police in vehicles moved through our locality and from loudspeakers ordered us to stay indoors for two days – as if we were not already caged,” Imriyaz Ali, who lives in the Srinagar old town, told AFP news agency.
“I saw mobile phones of two of my neighbours taken away by soldiers when they got out to buy bread from a local baker early in the morning,” said one villager by phone from Nazneenpora village.
Shabir Ahmad Dar, 40, who works in a juice factory, told Reuters he was stopped at one of Srinagar’s several checkpoints on Tuesday morning and was told by soldiers to return home.
But the Kashmir authorities defended the new security measures.
“A series of inputs have been received suggesting that separatist and Pakistan-sponsored groups are planning to observe August 5 as Black Day and violent action or protests are not ruled out,” Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, a civil administrator, said.
Pakistan has said it will observe the anniversary of Kashmir’s loss of autonomy as a “siege day” in solidarity with Kashmiris.