Diplomats from nearly two dozen countries arrived on a two-day visit to Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday as residents of the main city in the disputed region closed their shops and businesses in a sign of protest.
This is the third visit of a group of foreign envoys stationed in the Indian capital since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped Kashmir of its semi-independent status in August 2019 and imposed change with a brutal crackdown that included for some time a complete communications blackout.
The Indian authorities led diplomats in a convoy of cars, amid tight security, from the airport in the city of Srinagar to the western town of Magam, where they met officials and a select group of recently elected village council members. Shops and businesses in Magam also closed in protest.
The diplomats are also scheduled to meet with a select group A group of civil society membersAnd pro-India merchants, politicians and journalists. They had been scheduled to leave for Jammu, the region’s winter capital, on Thursday.
Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan But it is claimed by both of them in its entirety. The rebels have been fighting in the region against Indian rule since 1989.
Before the 2019 change, India-controlled Kashmir was a country with a quasi-independent status that granted its citizens special rights to land ownership and jobs.
In anticipation of a backlash against the abolition of this autonomy, the Indian authorities sent additional forces to the region and launched a harsh security crackdown that cut off phone and internet access, closed schools and left hundreds of thousands without jobs.
Many restrictions have been eased since then, but the Indian security presence in the area remains high.
Prior to the arrival of the diplomats on Wednesday, the authorities removed at least six security hideouts in and around Srinagar.
Many Kashmiri Muslims support the rebel goal of unifying the region either under Pakistani rule or as an independent state.
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