Indian forces arrest over 500 as occupied Kashmir clampdown challenged

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Indian security forces have arrested more than 500 people since New Delhi imposed a communications blackout and security clampdown in occupied Kashmir which continued on Thursday for fourth consecutive day.

The clampdown came after India’s decision this week to strip the occupied Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and downgrade the Himalayan region from statehood to a territory.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address the nation on Thursday to discuss the issue. His national security adviser, Ajit Doval, visited the region on Wednesday to assess the law and order situation.

A petition was filed in India’s top court challenging the lockdown. Opposition Congress party activist Tehseen Poonawalla said he expected the Supreme Court to hear his petition on Thursday seeking immediate lifting of curfew and other restrictions, including blocking of phone lines, internet and news channels in Kashmir.

He also sought the immediate release of Kashmiri leaders who have been detained, including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who had vehemently opposed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to revoke occupied Kashmir’s special status, was reportedly detained at the Srinagar airport today and was asked to return to New Delhi, India Today reported.

State-run All India Radio, which reported on the arrests without details, also said that cross-border firing by Indian and Pakistani troops hit the Rajouri sector of occupied Kashmir late on Wednesday.

Activist Ali Mohammed told the New Delhi Television news channel that he has been organising ambulances to carry sick poor people to hospitals in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-occupied Kashmir, as local residents can’t even use phones to ask for medical help.

India regretted Pakistan’s steps and said in a statement that “the intention behind these measures is obviously to present an alarming picture to the world of our bilateral ties”. It urged Pakistan to review its decision to downgrade ties so that normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved.