India declares curfew in Kashmir on Martyr's Day

Security forces deployed on anniversary of deadly 1931 protests in Indian-held Kashmir, resistance leaders put under house arrest

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Indian authorities have declared a curfew in Indian-held Kashmir’s capital Srinagar on Monday to prevent a rally for the annual Martyrs' Day.

For the first time, since the resistance started 25 years ago, pro-independence leaders in Kashmir have not called for a strike this year, due to the month of Ramadan.

Instead, they decided to march to Ziyarat Naqshband Sahab, a shrine where the graveyards of 22 protesters gunned down by police, during the first Muslim rebellion against Hindu Dogra rule in 1931.

But the authorities imposed the curfew to prevent this march, and senior Kashmiri leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik were held under house arrest. Thousands of security men were deployed across Srinagar, especially around the shrine, which is located in the old city.

“They locked us up in our houses and didn’t let us go out. My aunt was sick and it was hours before they let us take her to the hospital. Imagine this is Ramadan,” Arshad Ahmad told Anadolu Agency in Srinagar.

The first major rebellion against the Hindu rule, Martyr’s Day is observed by both pro-India and pro-independence political groups in the Muslim-dominated region on July 13 every year. It is considered the beginning of an ongoing independence struggle against Indian occupation by many Kashmiris.

Those who decided to carry out the traditional march to the shrine were arrested when they reached Srinigar's main square.

"We had planned that all leaders will together go to Martyrs’ grave today and pay tribute to the heroes. We had said we would proceed towards Martyrs’ graveyard and that is where we are proceeding towards. We are defying the restrictions of the government," Kashimiri leader Hilal War said before being detained by the police.

Indian authorities prevented the resistance leaders' rally to the graveyard, but Indian-backed chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, visited the sacred site.

Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party leader Bhim Singh criticised Sayeed for practising a "double standard."

"This is the double standard of Modi and BJP government. This is a shameful incident that Mufti himself is visiting the Martyrs’ grave and paying tributes and shutting others in their homes by calling them separatists," Singh told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's invitation of Kashmiri leaders to Eid festivities to be held at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi has angered India.

Pakistan's envoy to India, Abdul Basit, invited pro-independence Kashmiri leaders to join Eid festivities on Monday and India's opposition parties were quick to condemn the move, while calling the government to get a tougher stance against Pakistan.

They also called for the cancellation of planned talks between National Security Advisors (NSAs) of the two countries in New Delhi.

"The Prime Minister should be cautious while engaging in talks with Pakistan. Our old record is not good. I hope the Prime Minister also consults the opposition parties on this issue and makes a common national agenda," leader of the regional Janata Dal Party leader K.C. Tyagi told Reuters.

The parties continue the peace process considering the border problems and the Kashmir issue for a long time, but the talks were frequently interrupted due to the lack of a common understanding and sporadic cross-border attacks on both sides of the disputed borders.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and the two countries have fought over the region since the partition of India in 1947. China also claims a part of the region.

Since 1989, different Kashmiri groups have been fighting for independence or unification with neighbouring Pakistan against Indian rule. There are tens of thousands of Indian army, paramilitary and police forces in the region, which is one of the most militarised areas in the world.

More than 100,000 Kashmiri people have been killed under the occupation, with thousands of people disappearing or being jailed.

TRTWorld and agencies