Srinagar (India) – Authorities imposed a curfew in parts of the main city of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Friday to prevent any move by separatists to celebrate Pakistan’s indepedence day, police said.
The restrictions in Srinagar, which included the closure of the city’s main mosque during Friday prayers, were announced on the eve of independence day in both India and Pakistan and follow a recent spike in violence.
“The restrictions are imposed to prevent miscreants from hoisting Pakistani flags and to avoid loss of life,” director general of police, K. Rajendra, told AFP.
The anniversary of the partition of the sub-continent in 1947 is often a tense period in Kashmir, a picturesque Himalayan territory which has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule.
Kashmir is India’s only Muslim majority state and several rebel groups have spent decades fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan. The conflict has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.
Forces from both sides of the Line of Control, Kashmir’s de facto border, exchanged heavy fire and mortar shells in the southern Poonch sector early Friday, according to Indian defence ministry spokesman Manish Mehta.
Additional checkpoints and razor wire barricades have been erected along major arterial roads in Indian-controlled Kashmir to thwart militant attacks amid the deployment of thousands of troop reinforcements.
On Thursday a bomb kept in a steel pot exploded in the compound of a mosque in the south of the Kashmir Valley, injuring 10 worshipers as they were leaving after morning prayers.
While relations between the two nuclear-armed countries remain chilly, their respective national security advisors are scheduled to meet in the Indian capital New Delhi on August 23 as a confidence-building measure.