Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir placed large parts of the disputed region under lockdown early Monday amid a massive troop buildup by India, which traded accusations of clashes with Pakistan at the de facto border.
The recent tensions started in the last 10 days after New Delhi deployed at least 10,000 troops, but a security source told AFP a further 70,000 had been dispatched in what is believed to be an unprecedented level.
“As per the order there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed,” the state government ordered for Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, and surrounding areas, in a statement obtained by AFP.
“There will be a complete bar on holding any kind of public meetings or rallies during the period of operation of this order.”
Universities, schools and colleges in the Hindu-dominated Jammu were ordered to be shut, and one district in that region was placed under lockdown.
Several other major districts of the Muslim-majority state were also placed under restrictions, local media reported.
Private mobile networks, internet services and telephone landlines were cut, with only the one government-owned mobile network remained operational, an AFP reporter said.
A senior official told AFP nearly 300 administrative officials and top security officials had been issued with satellite phones.
Before the networks were cut, senior former and current Kashmiri politician leaders tweeted that they had been put under house arrest.
“I believe I’m being placed under house arrest from midnight tonight & the process has already started for other mainstream leaders,” Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, tweeted.
In downtown Srinagar, a local resident told AFP government forces threw “chili bombs” that affect respiratory systems, on empty streets.
The last time similar restrictions were imposed in the territory was in 2016 after the killing of a popular rebel leader, which sparked months of violent street protests that left nearly 100 dead.
Meanwhile, Pakistani authorities on Sunday asked villagers along the heavily militarized de facto Kashmir border to remain alert.
The advisory came after Pakistani officials evacuated more than 50 Chinese nationals working on a dam being constructed in Pakistani Kashmir along the confluence of the Neelum and Jhelum rivers.
Authorities moved the workers last Tuesday after Indian fire killed four civilians – including a four-year-old boy – and critically injured 11 others, authorities said.
Pakistan on Sunday accused India of using cluster bombs against civilians in the same area, in Noseri sector.
Both countries control parts of the disputed Himalayan region.
Authorities later asked the villagers through social media and WhatsApp messages to remain alert and not to approach any suspicious object as the “enemy was using toy bombs, mortar shells and artillery.”
Local authorities later took a group of reporters to the Noseri area, on the Line of Control (LOC) where Badr Munir, a senior government official, briefed them on the escalation at the de facto border.
“Four people have been martyred and 11 others wounded by cluster bombs in two different incidents,” Munir said.
An AFP reporter at the scene saw that the Noseri Bazaar appeared deserted, with shops closed and less traffic than usual on the roads.
Authorities also showed two unexploded cluster bombs to reporters. The site was cordoned off by police to prevent people from getting closer to avoid any further damage.
Munir said a group of experts along with police was searching for more unexploded bombs in the area.
Muhammad Siddique, the father of a cluster-bomb victim in the area, told reporters his children were playing outside when they found the unexploded weapon and brought it home.
“It exploded as they were playing with it. My son Ayan Ahmad was martyred and 11 people were wounded in the incident,” Siddique said.
Cluster munitions can contain dozens of smaller bomblets that disperse over large areas, often continuing to kill and maim civilians long after they are dropped.
Their use is banned under an international treaty, which neither India nor Pakistan has signed on to.
– Agence France-Presse