A Kashmiri separatist leader Thursday voiced defiance at efforts by state police to shut down an anti-India protest that would coincide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kashmir this weekend.
“We will continue with the program, despite the crackdown by Indian forces,” Syed Ali Geelani, a top Kashmir separatist, told BenarNews, referring to the “Million March” protest planned for Saturday.
Ahead of Modi’s scheduled visit to Indian-administered Kashmir that day, where he is to appear at a public rally in Srinagar, police in the restive region have launched a crackdown. They have placed separatist leaders under house arrest, including Geelani, and detained hundreds of their supporters, the Associated Press reported.
The arrests show how the Indian government wants to suppress the views of Kashmir’s people, Geelani told BenarNews.
The Kashmiri people have a basic right to march, the separatist leader said.
Fayaz Ahmad, a north Kashmir resident and a government teacher, said the crackdown was not justified.
“Hundreds of people have been arrested by the police,” Ahmad told BenarNews. “They should allow the rally, and the world should know what people want. [The government] has failed to do anything for the common man. They promised us many things, but everything turned false.”
However, a senior police officer told BenarNews that state police would not allow a separatist rally to take place.
Syed Javiad Mujtabla Gilani, Kashmir’s chief of police, said police would strive to keep the peace during Modi’s visit.
The arrests of Geelani, Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front Chief Yasin Malik and others, came less than a week after Indian forces in Kashmir killed Abdul Rehman (also known as Abu Qasim), a Pakistani who was one of the most wanted militants in the region and a top commander of the militant group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Predominantly Muslim Kashmir has been caught in a territorial dispute between Indian and Pakistan since 1947, and the LeT is one of the armed groups that have waged a regional insurgency for decades.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – the partners of a coalition governing the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir offered praise for Modi’s trip.
“The visit would accelerate the development scenario of Jammu & Kashmir,” Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh said Thursday. “The visit would be a historic one which would usher a new age of peace, prosperity and development in every sphere of life.”
PDP spokesman Mehboob Beg said the visit would offer a fresh push to the “Agenda of Alliance” – an agreement struck between the partners in J & K’s ruling coalition.
In March, Modi hailed the partnership between his BJP and the PDP as an opportunity to fulfill the region’s aspirations. Following weeks of negotiations, the two sides forged a coalition. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the Muslim leader of the PDP, was sworn in as the region’s chief administrator. He enthusiastically embraced Hindu nationalist Modi, who was on stage to witness the ceremony.
As Modi returns to the region, residents are hopeful that he will announce aid for victims of floods last year.
Srinagar resident Yaseen Mohammed told BenarNews that the regional government had yet to do anything to help.
“I voted for PDP because I thought they would help the people, especially the flood victims. But nothing was done. This time, I am hopeful that he would come and announce some money for people,” he said.