Indian authorities need more time to restore order in Kashmir, a Supreme Court justice said on Tuesday as a security clampdown entered a ninth day since New Delhi revoked the region’s special status, triggering protests.
The court is hearing an activist’s petition seeking to lift curbs on communications and movement that have disrupted normal life and essential services in the Himalayan region.
Telephone lines, internet and television networks have been blocked since Aug. 5, when India withdrew Jammu and Kashmir state’s right to frame its own laws and allowed non-residents to buy property there.
Restrictions on movement and assembly, including a ban on gatherings of more than four people, were tightly enforced on Tuesday in the region’s main city, Srinagar.
Menaka Guruswamy, a lawyer for the petitioner, said the court should move to restore hospital services and open schools.
“That is all I ask,” she told the Supreme Court in New Delhi.
Justice Arun Mishra said the government wanted to bring Kashmir back to normal as soon as possible.
“The situation is such that nobody knows what is going on. We should give them time to restore normalcy. Nobody can take 1 per cent of chance,” Mr. Mishra said. “Who will be responsible if something really bad happens tomorrow?”
The petition also seeks the release of detained political leaders in Kashmir, among more than 300 people held to prevent widespread protests.
The court is expected to rule on the petition in a few days.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move on Kashmir threw a tighter grasp on the country’s only Muslim-majority region, and drew strong protests from neighbouring Pakistan, which also lays claim to the region.
Indian officials say the situation is normalizing and announced plans for a three-day investor summit in Kashmir beginning Oct. 12, to kickstart economic growth.
Navin Kumar Choudhary, Jammu and Kashmir’s principal secretary of industry and commerce, said the government would try to drum up investment in tourism, horticulture and film production in Kashmir, famous for its alpine scenery and fertile soil.
Mr. Modi’s government has said the old laws prohibiting people from outside Kashmir from buying property, settling there and taking up government jobs had hindered its development.
Restrictions were lifted in five districts of Jammu on Monday, and relaxed in nine Kashmir districts, the home ministry said. Still, it said there would be heightened security for Pakistan’s Independence Day on Wednesday followed by India’s the next day and then Muslim Friday prayers.
On Monday, authorities sealed off parts of Srinagar, where hundreds of people shouting anti-India slogans spilled onto the streets following prayers on the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
Rahul Gandhi, a leader of India’s opposition Congress party, said on Tuesday he and his colleagues want to visit the state, responding to media reports of an invitation from authorities overseeing Kashmir.
Mr. Gandhi tweeted, “but please ensure us the freedom to travel and meet the people, mainstream leaders and our soldiers stationed over there.”
Pakistan calls for UN Security Council meeting
Pakistan on Tuesday asked the United Nations Security Council to meet over India’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Himalayan region that has long been a flashpoint in ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
The move by India blocks the right of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to frame its own laws and allows non-residents to buy property there.
“Pakistan will not provoke a conflict. But India should not mistake our restraint for weakness,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi wrote in a letter to the Security Council seen by Reuters.
“If India chooses to resort again to the use of force, Pakistan will be obliged to respond, in self-defence, with all its capabilities,” he said, adding that “in view of the dangerous implications” Pakistan requested the meeting.
It was not immediately clear how the 15-member council would respond to the request and whether a member of the body would also need to make a formal request. Pakistan said on Saturday it had China’s support for the move.
Poland is president of the Security Council for August. Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told reporters at the United Nations on Tuesday that the council had received a letter from Pakistan and “will discuss that issue and take a proper decision.”
The Himalayan region is divided between India, which rules the populous Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-dominated region around Jammu city, Pakistan, which controls a wedge of territory in the west, and China, which holds a thinly populated high-altitude area in the north.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on India and Pakistan to refrain from any steps that could affect the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Mr. Guterres also said he was concerned about reports of restrictions on the Indian side of Kashmir.
The UN Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over the region, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of the mostly Muslim Kashmir.
Another resolution also calls upon both sides to “refrain from making any statements and from doing or causing to be done or permitting any acts which might aggravate the situation.”
UN peacekeepers have been deployed since 1949 to observe a ceasefire between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.
India has raised concerns about some Twitter posts on the situation in Kashmir, where militants have been fighting Indian rule for nearly three decades.
Police in Kashmir said they asked Twitter to act against a malicious post from one user. Indian media reported on Monday that the government had asked the company to suspend eight accounts accused of spreading false information about Kashmir.
A police officer told NDTV news network that some of the accounts were run by Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
A spokesman for the publicity wing of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services said it had no involvement in the accounts.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company does not comment on individual accounts for “privacy and security reasons.”
Madiha Shakil Khan, who operates one of the eight Twitter accounts, said she was not formally contacted by Twitter, but one of her tweets about fighting for Kashmir’s freedom was blocked in India.
Ms. Khan, whose account @Red4Kashmir has about 700 followers, lives in Islamabad but hails from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
“I am tweeting in solidarity with Kashmiris,” Ms. Khan, 28, told Reuters by telephone, adding that she had no ties to Pakistan’s ISI. “Kashmir is being totally censored. They only want the Indian narrative. Every month they suspend me.”
India’s federal home ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
With reports from Michelle Nicoles at the United Nations
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