SRINAGAR, India (AP) – Shops and businesses were closed in some parts of India-controlled Kashmir on Saturday as separatists challenged Indian rule to call for a total strike to denounce new law allowing any Indians to buy land in the disputed area.
Government forces in riot attire patrol the streets of the main city of Srinagar in Kashmir in anticipation of anti-India protests. There are also no roads on public transport.
Kashmir’s main separatist group has called a strike to protest a new land law that India enacted on Monday, allowing any of its citizens to buy or their troops directly buying land in the area. Kashmir-pro-India politicians have also criticized the law and accused India of selling land in the area.
The new law terminated or amended most of the laws governing local land rights. It also abolished the land reform law of the 1950s to redistribute large plots of land to landless farmers.
The move has exacerbated concerns among Kashmiris and human rights groups, who see the measures as a colonial-settlement project aimed at changing the demographics of the Muslim majority. . They are likening the new arrangement to the West Bank or Tibet, with settlers living in protected areas among disenfranchised locals. They said these changes would reduce the area to a colony.
Until last year, Indians were not allowed to buy real estate in the area. But in August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government removed Kashmir’s special statute, abolished a separate constitution, divided the area into two federal territories – Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir – and eliminated abolish inherited protections on land and employment. The move has caused widespread anger and economic destruction amid severe security constraints and loss of communication.
Since then, India has brought about a series of changes through new laws. They are often drafted by officials without any democratic background and sparked much grievance and anger among the people of the region, many of whom wish to be independent from India or agree with Pakistan.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but both countries claim sovereignty over the entire area. Rebels have been fighting against Indian domination since 1989.
The new laws, part of Modi’s series of tough Hindu nationalist policies, also allow the Indian military to declare any area “strategic” for operational purposes. , population and training against the Kashmiri rebels.
The government of India said the decision was made to encourage development and peace.
“I want to say this strongly and responsibly that agricultural land has been kept for the farmers,” Lt. Guv. Manoj Sinha, New Delhi’s top administrator in Kashmir, said recently. “No outsiders will come on those lands.”
The government also said that it only wants to invite outside industries into designated “industrial areas”.
Freedom advocate group said in a statement that India is undermining all possibilities of peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
“Instead, a policy of permanent demographic change is being forcefully promoted to take our land, destroy our identities and turn us into a minority on our own land. we, ”the statement added,“ the law is being invented and forced by the people of New Delhi. ”
India describes the Kashmiri militia as a terrorist funded by Pakistan. Pakistan denies the accusation and most Kashmiris call it a legitimate freedom struggle.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces were killed in the conflict.
This story has been corrected to say that India enacted new legislation on Monday, not Tuesday.