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Kashmir arrests 'show India's impatience at protests'

Senior police official says detention of senior independence figures is sign of crackdown

Kashmir arrests 'show India's impatience at protests'

By Zahid Rafiq

SRINAGAR, Indian-held Kashmir

The arrest of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and other senior figures in Kashmir’s independence movement is a sign of the Indian government’s increased intolerance for dissent, a senior police officer said Saturday.

Mirwaiz, a leader in the Hurriyat coalition of pro-independence parties, was arrested Friday and is currently being held at Cheshma Shahi jail in Srinagar.

“The police arrested him… in view of the current situation on the ground and he is likely to be kept in custody for some time,” the police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, told Anadolu Agency.

He added: “Mirwaiz’s arrest, I believe, is to send a clear message that the Indian government will not tolerate pro-independence voices and also to make sure that he has no contact with people in Pakistan. The government is keen to stop these protest calendars.”

Mirwaiz and other leading dissidents had been under house arrests since July 8, when Muslim Kashmiris launched protests following the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani by Indian security forces.

At least 69 civilians have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded in the accompanying violence, according to government figures.

Mirwaiz, fellow Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik, who heads the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, had been jointly issuing schedules of protests.

According to police documents, 169 “organizers and provocateurs” playing a “leading role in the current unrest in Kashmir” have been targeted for arrest under the Public Safety Act, which allows for six months’ imprisonment without trial.

Saturday marked the 50th consecutive day on which the government imposed a curfew to prevent independence protests.

The Muslim-majority Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan. Since 1989, militants in Indian-held Kashmir have been fighting for independence or unification with Pakistan. More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict, most of them in Indian counter-insurgency operations.

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