India imposed tough new restrictions in disputed Kashmir fearing protests ahead of UN speeches by rival Indian and Pakistani leaders at the UNGA, even as the US urged New Delhi to ease control.
Indian authorities arrested an estimated "13,000 boys" in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, according to a fact-finding report by a team of five women who visited the region recently. The report's release came ahead of UNGA speeches on Friday by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani PM Imran Khan.
Security forces imposed tough new restrictions in India-administered Kashmir on Friday, fearing protests ahead of the rival leaders speeches.
"Shops closed, hotels closed, schools, colleges, institutes and universities closed, streets deserted was the first visual impact as we drove out from the airport," the "Women’s Voice: Fact-Finding Report on Kashmir" report said.
"To us, it seemed a punitive mahaul [environment] that blocked free breathing" the report noted on Tuesday.
Kashmiris are waiting for the world to understand the humanitarian costs of the lockdown since August 5, Syeda Hameed from Muslim Women’s Forum said after the release of the report.
"We wanted to see with our own eyes how this 43-day lockdown [until September17] had affected the people, particularly women and children," the report said.
Hameed said that people of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir are waiting for Friday when the 74th UNGA session listens to prime ministers of India and Pakistan.
"People are waiting for world opinion [to build] pressure [on India]," she added.
The report claimed that boys as young as 14 or 15 are taken away by the authorities and allegedly tortured.
"One estimate given to us was 13,000 boys were lifted during this crackdown," the report said about the alleged detentions by Indian forces to disallow any protests.
"Army pounces on young boys; it seems they hate their very sight. When fathers go to rescue their children, they are made to deposit money, anywhere between 20,000 Indian rupees [$281] to 60,000 Indian rupees [$845]," read the report.
The women’s activists said women in Kashmir, especially those from the Sikh community, denied they face any sexual harassment at the hands of Kashmiri men.
The group demanded that for normalcy to restore in the region, the Indian government should immediately withdraw army and paramilitary forces.
They added allegations of torture by Indian army should be investigated.
It demanded an immediate lifting of the communications blackout and restoration of special provisions back to their status before August 5.
More restrictions ahead of UN
Security forces imposed tough new restrictions in Indian Kashmir fearing protests ahead of UN speeches by rival Indian and Pakistani leaders at the United Nations.
Concrete and razor wire barricades went up across Srinagar and other towns in the disputed Muslim-majority territory.
"There were worries about big protests after Friday prayers. Similar restrictions are in place in other towns and areas," a police officer said on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorised to speak to media.
Barricades went up across roads and bridges in Srinagar as security forces in bulletproof gear guarded deserted streets following orders to stop any public rallies.
"The hospital is just a mile away from my home, but I have already walked three times the distance and am still not sure how long I need to walk to reach there," said Mudasir Ahmad, after pleading with soldiers to let him pass at one barrier in Srinagar's old town.
Ahmad said he wanted to visit a sick relative at the hospital. He was one of many residents on the streets who were stopped and redirected by soldiers.
US presses India on Kashmir rights
The US wants New Delhi to quickly ease restrictions imposed in Kashmir, a senior official said, declaring President Donald Trump's willingness to mediate to ease tensions between India and Pakistan over the territory.
Trump met separately this week with both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
While Trump has forged a close bond with Modi, joining the Hindu nationalist at a massive rally on Sunday in Houston where the Indian leader boasted of his actions in Kashmir, a senior official said that the US had concerns over the clampdown in the region.
"We hope to see rapid action – the lifting of the restrictions and the release of those who have been detained," Alice Wells, the top State Department official for South Asia, told reporters.
India, however, has long rejected any outside role on Kashmir and quickly shot down the idea after Trump mentioned mediation in a July meeting with Khan
Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.
India said that 93 percent of the restrictions have been eased in the conflict-ridden region.
India and Pakistan hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.