India imposes Ramadan curfew in Kashmir after violence

Security lock-down ahead of commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat’s funeral cripples life in Kashmir on first day of Ramadan.

India Kashmir Bhat funeral
Thousands defied the security curbs to attend Bhat's burial in his hometown [Tauseef Musthafa/AFP]

Thousands of people on Sunday defied a strict curfew across most of Indian-administered Kashmir to attend the funeral of a top rebel commander killed by security forces.

Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, a senior leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, was fatally shot on Saturday in a gun battle with government troops in his hometown of Tral.

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His death sparked widespread protests and clashes in parts of Kashmir, leaving one civilian dead and dozens of others wounded.

On Sunday, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, authorities imposed strict security measures, erecting barricades in Srinagar and other cities, as well as partially cutting telephone services to thwart further protests.

Still, thousands assembled in Tral to attend Bhat’s burial, shouting anti-India and pro-independence slogans.

“People were walking on foot to take part in the funeral,” 27-year-old Abid Ahmad, who traveled from Srinagar to Tral, told Al Jazeera.

“But then we took alternate routes to reach there.”

‘Suffocating restrictions’

The lockdown in the mainly Muslim region crippled life across most of Kashmir.

Srinagar’s central mosque remained shut and devotees were barred from offering prayers on the first day of the Ramadan fasting period.

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“Restrictions have been put in place today so that mobs don’t gather and incite violence,” Shesh Pal Vaid, a police spokesman in Srinagar, told Al Jazeera.

“The situation is under control.”

Authorities cut off internet mobile and calling services on Saturday, just hours after a month-long ban on 22 social media sites like Facebook and Twitter ended.

“It is very suffocating to have curfew on the first day of the holy month,” Parvez Ahmad, a Srinagar resident, told Al Jazeera.

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“The phones are blocked and mobile internet is shut. Everything is shut.”

He added: “It’s very disturbing. We don’t know what is going to happen in the next moment and how much the situation would escalate.”

Last year, nearly 100 protesters were killed after Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani was killed, triggering months of anti-India protests.

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Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the Kashmir valley, where most people favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.

The region has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947. Both claim the disputed territory in its entirety.

Several armed rebel groups are fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir, with tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, killed in the nearly three decades-old fighting.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies