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Central & South Asia
Kashmiris strike on Indian Independence Day
Leaders in Indian-administered region call anniversary a "black day" as valley shuts down amid increased security.
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2011 17:04
Residents say the shutdown is a regular feature on every Indian Independence Day [EPA]

As India celebrated the 65th anniversary of its independence on Monday, Indian-administered Kashmir remained closed as the separatists groups Hurriyat Conference and Jihad Council called for a complete shutdown in the valley.

Leaders of the groups described August 15 as a "black day" and the celebrations "meaningless" until Kashmir was free from Indian rule.

The groups said the strike was being observed to convey the message to New Delhi that it has no moral justification to celebrate its independence day as long as it continues to deny the Kashmiri people their right of self-determination.

Indian authorities have increased security in Srinagar and other towns in order to prevent people from holding anti-India demonstrations and to prevent any violence.

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Residents said that shutdown, which saw shops closed and roads deserted, is a regular feature on every Independence Day.

"Kashmir is totally shutdown today and from last 20 years, it remains shut on this day. So, today also is the same reason of shutdown," said Mohammad Ashraf Gola, a local.

"Government also create obstacles for people, locals are not allowed to roam freely on the streets. People face problems in commuting as barbed wires are laid on the streets.

"In reality, the people of Kashmir themselves stay inside their homes."

During an Independence Day address on Monday, Omar Abdullah, provincial chief minister, said that dialogue, and not violence, can bring lasting peace in the strife-ridden valley.

Wasim Khalid, a local journalist based in Srinagar, told Al Jazeera that authorities disabled the mobile networks in the region as part of the security arrangements.

"The city experienced a complete shut down today. Even mobile networks and the internet connection were suspended for about four hours as part of the security arrangements for the day.

"The security arrangement around the stadium was particularly intense with troops being deployed and a three-tier security buffer created in preparation for any incident."

Khalid said that there were no incidents in the city though there were some clashes between youth and police on Sunday evening in the old city following the arrest of around 15 youth suspected of participating in protest action last week.

"There were some midnight raids which created some agitation, but no incidents took place today," he said.

Bone of contention

India's Independence Day is celebrated on August 15 to commemorate the end of British rule and its birth as a sovereign nation on that day in 1947.

Kashmir continues to be a bone of contention between India and Pakistan.

Nearly 50,000 people have been killed in Indian-adminstered since the start of a separatist campaign in the late 1980s that India says was sponsored by Pakistan.

Though violence has declined to its lowest levels since that time, many in the region still view India with hostility.

Last summer, more than 100 people were killed in large demonstrations for independence, mostly by police bullets.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the region, where more than half a million security personnel are now deployed.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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