Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – The chief secretary of Indian-administered Kashmir has announced the lockdown and communications blackout enforced on the region for more than a week is “likely to be eased in a gradual manner”.
BVR Subramaniam, the highest official of the Indian government in Kashmir, said that “keeping in view the evolving situation, as well as cooperation of the people in maintaining calm and peace, we are now taking measures to ease restrictions in a gradual manner”.
Friday’s announcement coincides with a scheduled United Nations Security Council (UNSC) discussion on Kashmir set to take place in New York as the lockdown in Kashmir entered its 12th day.
Fearing large-scale unrest, internet and phone connections were blocked in the disputed region and a curfew was imposed ahead of New Delhi’s announcement to revoke the special status of the region on August 5 in the parliament.
Following global condemnation and a backlash over the measures, the official said that “connectivity will be gradually restored in a phased manner keeping in mind the constant threat posed by terrorist organisations in using mobile connectivity to organise terror actions”.
While Subramaniam did not specify the exact time frame, he said it was expected “over the next few days”, adding that schools would reopen next week.
“A fortnight ago, some major decisions were taken with a view to promoting the long-term welfare of the people of all the regions of the state and to ensure better governance and accelerated development,” he added.
Even before India’s parliament voted on August 5 to strip Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood and split it into two union territories, the central government imposed a curfew, suspended telephone and internet services and deployed tens of thousands of additional soldiers to the region – already one of the world’s most militarised zones.
The Associated Press reported razor wire was being used to divide neighbourhoods, discouraging people from assembling.
Some roads were also blocked by armoured vehicles or private buses. Because of the complexity of the security forces’ one-way system, it was impossible to use the same route and return home from any particular destination, even if it was within sight.
In addition to the lockdown, the Indian government also arrested two former chief ministers – Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.