India's Modi visits Kashmir amid strike

Separatists organise general strike during new prime minister's first visit to the divided region.

    Security was tightened in Srinagar and other places in the run up to Modi's visit to Kashmir [AFP]
    Security was tightened in Srinagar and other places in the run up to Modi's visit to Kashmir [AFP]

    India's Narendra Modi has faced a general strike during his first visit as prime minister to Kashmir.

    Shops, businesses and schools were mostly shut on Friday in the Indian-administered state, after separatist groups opposed to Indian rule announced a strike in protest at the visit by the prime minister.

    A police officer said a curfew had been declared in the old quarters of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, and residents have been asked to stay indoors.

    He said the restrictions were imposed to prevent any violent protests.

    Modi travelled to Katra, 270km from Srinagar, where he opened a railway line linking a popular Hindu shrine with India's railway network.

    "This facility is not just meant for the people of the state but for the millions of Indians who want to travel to Mata Vaishnodevi [shrine]," Modi said after waving off the first train on the Udhampur-Katra line.

    Modi said the new railway "will become the fountainhead of development" for the region, while also dedicating the new train to the Hindu pilgrims who travel to the shrine every year.

    "My aim is to win the hearts of the people of the state," Modi said.

    Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim the region in full but administer separate partial areas.

    The neighbours have fought two of their three wars over its control.

    Since 1989, an armed rebellion against Indian rule by about a dozen rebel groups seeking independence for Kashmir or a merger of the territory with Pakistan has left tens of thousands dead.

    Modi was set to meet top generals at army headquarters in Srinagar where hundreds of police and paramilitary officers were patrolling the city's mainly deserted streets.

    Modi was also expected on Friday to travel to the town of Uri close to the border with Pakistan to inaugurate a hydro-power project.

    SOURCE: AFP


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