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Kashmir launches general strike against controversial new land laws

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A resident walks past an Indian army soldier standing guard next to closed shops during a general strike in Srinagar on October 31, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Indian-administered Kashmir has launched a general strike in protest at controversial laws imposed by New Delhi that allow non-locals to buy land in the disputed region.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government announced this week that it had granted non-locals access to purchase land and property in Kashmir.

Businesses in the disputed Himalayan region observed a complete shutdown on Saturday in the biggest act of defiance since the abrogation of Kashmir's special status last year.

Most residents stayed inside their homes while shops and businesses were closed after a shutdown was called by a coalition of political and religious groups that want self-determination for the region.

Indian soldiers patrolled the nearly empty streets.

New-Delhi's latest move was criticized by all the Muslim-majority population. Even pro-India elements in Kashmir criticized the new laws, which came into effect on Tuesday.

Kashmiris accuse New-Delhi of putting Kashmir’s land up for sale with the purpose of watering down the local population in India's only Muslim-majority territory. 

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah said Kashmir had been "put up for sale and left bereft of any basic protections."

"The amendments add to the fear of demographic changes. They want to alter the character of this place," said Abdullah, who was among hundreds of political leaders detained for months during last year's protests.

New Delhi has deployed more than 500,000 Indian troops in Kashmir.

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