Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – India’s 69th Republic Day celebrations have been marked by a security clampdown in Indian-administered Kashmir, as authorities suspended internet services and thousands of soldiers patrolled the streets.
The main celebratory event was held amid tight security at a sports stadium in the region’s main city, Srinagar, and was attended by politicians and top officers of the security apparatus.
Residents, however, boycotted the ceremony.
The day is meant to remember when the Constitution of India came into effect on January 26, 1950.
Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said: “India has no right to celebrate Republic Day as it has occupied Jammu Kashmir with its military might.”
Geelani leads the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an amalgam of separatist leaderships in Kashmir. Separatists fight for independence or merging the region with Pakistan.
APHC said the day should be observed as a “black day” and called for a boycott of all celebrations.
“India claims to be world’s largest democracy but virtually stands exposed in Jammu Kashmir as it is trampling all basic and fundamental rights of people since past seven decades,” an APHC statement said.
The Indian flag was hoisted during the ceremony in the divided territory.
Authorities blocked internet and phone networks until Friday afternoon, as they do for Indian Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations as well.
Barricades were set up on all major roads of the city, as police carried out stop and search operations.
“For Indians, it might be a big day, but for us, we dread it. We don’t feel any belonging to it. This day brings a lot of harassment for common people,” said 35-year-old Fayaz Ahmad, a Srinagar resident.
“Yesterday I had a medical emergency, and I had to go to a hospital at night, we were stopped and frisked at dozen places. It does not happen with Indians,” he told Al Jazeera.
The region saw fresh bouts of violence last week, with casualties on both sides.
On the Indian controlled side, 12 people, including six civilians, were killed, increasing the hostilities between the two nuclear neighbours.
The start of the year has seen an uptick in violence.
On Thursday, in the southern village of Shopian, three people, including two rebels and a 17-year-old boy, were killed in a gun battle. Two girls were also critically wounded.
‘Not a day passes without someone killed’
Separatist leaders have asked residents to protest against the recent civilian killings after Friday prayers.
“We were sold to India, and they celebrate their existence on the day. Ask common people about the sufferings under Indian rule; not a single day passes without somebody being killed. This day only reminds us of zulum (oppression),” 62-year-old Abdul Majeed told Al Jazeera.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep among Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population, and most support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule, despite a decades-long military crackdown to fight dissent.
Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for the Indian-administered portion to become independent or merge with Pakistan.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown. India maintains roughly 500,000 soldiers in the territory.