India toughens J&K crackdown | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 25, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:28 AM, February 25, 2019

India toughens J&K crackdown

More detained, movement curbed; Modi vows to wipe out terrorists

  • Separatists call for strike after more than 160 detained 
  • Potential legal ruling on Article 370 next week could worsen situation
  • Fresh gunfight kills 1 cop, 1 militant

 

Indian authorities have detained hundreds of separatist leaders and Muslim activists in an escalating crackdown in disputed Kashmir with the region remaining on high alert following a suicide bomb attack.

Police said about 400 arrests had been made over the weekend in late-night raids aimed at weakening support for groups resisting Indian rule in the Himalayan territory also claimed in full by Pakistan.

The sweeps follow the February 14 attack on an Indian convoy in Pulwama district which killed 40 soldiers and was claimed by Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

The attack has pushed India and Pakistan into a fresh round of sabre-rattling as thousands of extra paramilitary troops are deployed to Kashmir.

Separatist groups whose leaders were rounded up called for a general strike yesterday across Kashmir over what they called a "reign of repression".

India has accused Pakistan of supporting the attack -- a claim rejected by the Islamabad government -- and there have been widespread calls for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order a reprisal strike.

Modi has promised a "jaw-breaking response", spiking tensions in Kashmir where many fear a military strike against Pakistan is possible. Islamabad has warned it would respond with "full force" if attacked.

Modi, in a monthly radio broadcast yesterday, said that the army had vowed to destroy the militants and those who helped them.

After the attack, India dropped trade privileges for Pakistan and is preparing to send as many as 10,000 more troops to the contested area, according to a home ministry letter seen by Reuters.

A statement issued by the governor's office yesterday said the additional troops deployment is part of preparation for the upcoming general elections.

Kashmir is likely to be a key election issue, distracting from concerns about how Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party have managed the economy.

India's Supreme Court will hear a case next week seeking to drop a constitutional provision, Article 370, that bars non-residents from moving to the state of Jammu and Kashmir that encompasses the Muslim-majority region.

If passed, it could further escalate tension there.

There was also at least one military operation during the day. Troops cordoned off Turigam, a village in South Kashmir's Kulgam district, and in a subsequent gun battle with JeM militants, one police officer and one militant died, a police source said. At least two other militants were trapped inside the village, the source said.

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