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At Least 4,000 Arrested in IHK, Restrictions On Movement Re-imposed In Srinagar

Thousands of people have been detained in Indian-held Kashmir over fears of unrest after New Delhi stripped the region of its autonomy two weeks ago, international media outlets reported.

On the other hand, Indian authorities on Sunday re-imposed restrictions on movement in major parts of Srinagar after violent clashes between residents and police overnight in which dozens were injured, officials and witnesses said.

Two senior government officials told Reuters that at least two dozen people were admitted to hospitals with pellet injuries. They also reversed a decision to allow internet and mobile phone use in parts of the Jammu region, according to one official, amid concerns about the spread of rumours online.

Also read: What Did UN Security Council Consultation On Kashmir Achieve? Not Much. 

A magistrate speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said at least 4,000 people were arrested and held under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

“Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity,” the magistrate said, adding that he had used a satellite phone allocated to him to collate the figures from colleagues across the Himalayan territory amid a communications blackout and lockdown imposed by authorities.

The revelations came as the family of a timber trader alleged he died after suffocating from tear gas fired by security forces.

“They (security forces) first damaged the property and when he went out to check, they fired tear gas shells and because of the smoke, he suffocated and died,” Muddasir Ahmed, the nephew of 62-year-old Sidiq Khan.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. One youth had died in the early days of the lockdown after he jumped into a river while being chased by police.

Authorities have repeatedly declined to provide a tally of how many people have been taken into custody, apart from confirming more than 100 local politicians, activists and academics were detained in the first few days after the state was stripped of its semi-autonomous status.

Also read: Negotiating Peace In Kashmir: How To Break The impasse?

They said the “few preventive detentions” were made to avoid a “breach of the peace” in a region that has fought an armed rebellion against Indian rule for three decades. Those detained include high-profile former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.

India-held Kashmir government spokesman Rohit Kansal said previously there was “no centralised figure” for the total number of people detained.

But AFP spoke to numerous government officials in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, including police and security personnel, who confirmed the sweeping arrests.

A police official who asked to remain anonymous told AFP “around 6,000 people were medically examined at a couple of places in Srinagar after they were detained”.

“They are first sent to the central jail in Srinagar and later flown out of here in military aircraft,” he added.

Residents living around the airport in Srinagar, where the Indian Air Force controls air traffic, say military aircraft land and take off every night.

Another security official said “thousands are jailed” but that the figure did not include other residents whose detentions at police stations had not been recorded.

A resident who asked not to be named told AFP a shopkeeper was arrested despite not taking part in protests, with a police officer telling him he was detained “because he talks a lot”.

Kansal told reporters late Saturday that eight people had been injured in the clashes but did not provide further details.

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