Authorities in India-administered Kashmir arrested nearly 4,000 people since scrapping the region's limited autonomy last month, government data accessed by Reuters shows.

Her husband Shameem Ahmad Ganai was arrested during the clampdown on Kashmir by India, Fareeda said as she spoke about her ordeal from her house in Pulwama, south of Srinagar, August 13, 2019.
Her husband Shameem Ahmad Ganai was arrested during the clampdown on Kashmir by India, Fareeda said as she spoke about her ordeal from her house in Pulwama, south of Srinagar, August 13, 2019. (Reuters)

Authorities in India-administered Kashmir have arrested nearly 4,000 people since New Delhi took its limited autonomy last month, government data shows, the most clear evidence yet of the scale of one of the disputed region's biggest crackdowns.

In an attempt to stifle the protests after Article 370 –– which provided Kashmir with a special status –– was scrapped, India cut internet and mobile services. India placed the disputed region of Kashmir under a de facto curfew by deploying thousands of troops in addition to the 500,000 already there. 

India also arrested more than 3,800 people, according to a government report dated September 6, and seen by Reuters news agency, though about 2,600 have since been released.

A spokeswoman for India's Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Indian police in the region.

Extent of detentions

It was not clear on what basis most of the people were being held but an Indian official said some were held under the Public Safety Act, a notorious law that allows for detention for up to two years without trial. 

The data for the first time shows the extent of the detentions, as well as indicating who was picked up and where.

More than 200 politicians, including three former chief ministers of the region, were arrested, along with more than 100 leaders and activists from an umbrella organisation of resistance groups.

The bulk of those arrested — more than 3,000 — were listed as "stone pelters and other miscreants." On Sunday, 85 detainees were shifted to a prison in Agra in northern India, a police source said.

'Distinct and unprecedented' crackdown 

Muslim-majority Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, has been in turmoil since August 5, leading to clashes between government forces and residents and inflaming tension with Pakistan.

India's ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP said the removal of the status of the disputed region would help integrate it into the Indian economy, to the benefit of all. 

But Kashmiris –– including those involved in pro-India politics –– say the decision is an attack on the region's unique identity and culture. Resistance groups say New Delhi plans to alter the demography of the region by settling non-locals. 

Rights group Amnesty International said the crackdown was "distinct and unprecedented" in the recent history of the region and the detentions had contributed to "widespread fear and alienation."

"The communication blackout, security clampdown and detention of the political leaders in the region made it worse," said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India.

The report contains data from the 13 police districts that make up the Kashmir Valley, the most populous part of the Himalayan region where the main city of Srinagar is located.

The largest number of arrests have been in Srinagar, the data shows, at nearly 1,000. Earlier unrest often centred in rural areas.

Pro-India politicians detained

Of the detained political leaders, more than 80 were from the People's Democratic Party, formerly in coalition in the region with BJP.

About 70 are from the National Conference, which has for years dominated politics in the region, and more than a dozen from India's main opposition Congress party.

Police also arrested more than 150 people accused of association with rebel groups fighting Indian rule since 1989. 

An Indian official said it was likely that more than 1,200 people were still held, including all the high-profile politicians and resistance leaders and activists mentioned in the report, while dozens more are being arrested every day.

In the 24 hours before the report was compiled, more than two dozen people were arrested, mainly on suspicion of throwing stones at Indian troops, the data showed.

The data did not include those under informal house arrest, nor people detained in a round-up of resistance activists that began in February after a bomb attack on Indian troops.

Days before India's move to strip Kashmir of nominal autonomy, one prominent resistance leader told Reuters that more than 250 people with links to the movement were already in detention.

Decades-old conflict 

Kashmir has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between Pakistan and India, two nuclear-armed arch-rivals. 

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir's mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels' cause against Indian rule. Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989. 

The Indian military has been accused of suppressing the Kashmiri uprising using brutal tactics, including the infamous pellet guns, which have wounded or blinded many Kashmiris.

Pakistan, in turn, has been accused by India of supporting the militants in Kashmir and of harbouring terror groups.

Source: Reuters