Shutdown in Kashmir greets Modi on first visit

2014-07-04 17:49
India's prime minister-elect Narendra Modi addresses the media following his meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. (Raveendran, AFP)

India's prime minister-elect Narendra Modi addresses the media following his meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. (Raveendran, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Srinagar - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was greeted by near-empty streets lined by security personnel on his first official visit to Kashmir on Friday, as separatists enforced a strike to demand political dialogue about the future of the divided region.

Kashmir is split between rivals India and Pakistan. Demonstrators on the Pakistan-controlled side burnt an effigy of Modi and India's tricolour flag on Friday to protest the prime minister's visit.

Schools and shops were shuttered and normally busy roads were free of traffic in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian controlled Kashmir, when Modi arrived to meet army commanders in one of the most world's most militarised regions.

"It is our earnest wish that Mr. Modi and the newly elected NDA government understand the ardent political message we seek to convey through this act," said separatist leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq.

Police erected barricades to stop and search vehicles entering Srinagar ahead of Modi's arrival, and soldiers flanked main roads throughout the Himalayan region that has been racked by insurgency for decades.

Gift of soldiers bodies

Modi has long been associated with a Hindu nationalist organisation that wants to end the semi-autonomous status that Muslim-majority Kashmir nominally enjoys. His government has promised to renew the debate on the sensitive issue.

Modi was later due to inaugurate a hydroelectric dam in the mountains, barely a mile from the Line of Control, the de facto border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have been quarrelling over the region they both claim in full since freedom from British colonial rule in 1947. Hundreds of thousands of troops are stationed along either side of the border, making it a dangerous flashpoint despite a ceasefire that has reduced - but not ended - cross-border firing in recent years.

Many Kashmiris want independence from both India and Pakistan, and separatist politicians and armed militants alike have often fought for that goal or for closer ties with Pakistan.

"We have repeatedly expressed our hope that the Kashmir issue is addressed in its proper perspective as a political and human issue," said Farooq, who heads a coalition of separatists and is seen as close to Pakistan.

On Wednesday night, sporadic fighting broke out in Poonch district along the defacto border, with the Indian army saying they had foiled an infiltration attempt by militants. Militants regularly cross into Kashmir from the Pakistan side of the border to launch attacks.

"Mr Modi will take with him the gift of bodies of Indian soldiers" from Poonch, said Maulana Abdul Aziz Alvi, a leader in Pakistani Kashmir of the Jamaat ud Dawa, a group under US and UN sanctions.

Lieutenant-General K.H. Singh, Commander of the White Knight Corps (16 Corps) in India, said that ceasefire violations and infiltration bids were common before high-profile visits to the state, formally known as Jammu and Kashmir, to draw attention to the region.

Railway to a shrine

Earlier in the day, Modi saw off the inaugural train on a new stretch of railway to the town of Katra, allowing easier access to the a Hindu shrine there that is one of India's most popular pilgrimage sites and receives upwards of 10 million visitors each year.

Modi said the train, in addition to making it easier for pilgrims to reach the shrine, would help connect the state with the rest of India.

"Infrastructure is the centre point of development," Modi said. "My objective is to win the hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir through development."

Kashmir's population is primarily Muslim, a majority that sharpened after an exodus of Hindu Pandits who fled to escape religious persecution in the 1980s and 1990s. Modi's government is committed to resettling the Pandits on their ancestral lands.

The day before Modi's visit, Kashmir's top cleric Mufti Bashir-un-Din Ahmad, said the Pandits would be welcome to return, but warned against a proposal to create separate settlements for them.

Others weren't as diplomatic. Hardline, pro-Pakistan separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani claimed Modi's government was planning to water down Kashmir's ethnic and religious demographics by settling "Hindu fundamentalists" along with the Pandits.

"The aim is to change the demography of the state and create a permanent social division in Kashmir," said Geelani, who commands a large following among Kashmiri youth.

Read more on:    narendra modi  |  pakistan  |  india
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Movies
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Cape Town - 20:17 PM
    Road name: MetroRail
    Due to extensive vandalism on the Central Line a limited Bus Service will operate between Nyanga/Chris Hani and Nyanga/Kapteinsklip - EXPECT DELAYS
  • Wednesday Montague Gardens - 19:58 PM
    Road name: Montague Drive
    ROADWORKS - lane closures both directions for BRT lane construction - expect DELAYS
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Y

The Samsung Y (Young) is tiny but powerful with Android...

From R1499.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is the end of the month and there may be a strong focus on organising finances. You may have found a need to reconstruct or...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.