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India deploys troops to Srinagar after Kashmir independence leader’s passing

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)
Kashmiri independence leader, the late Syed Ali Shah Geelani (photo by AFP)

India has deployed troops to Kashmir and imposed a security lockdown in the disputed Himalayan region to prevent potential rallies following the death of top local leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Hundreds of troops were deployed in Srinagar, the main city in the Indian-administered Kashmir, on Thursday, a police official said, adding that internet was shut down as a precautionary measure and restrictions were imposed in Kashmir Valley.

“Troops are being deployed at sensitive places in Srinagar and other major towns and no vehicular movement is being allowed,” Kashmir police chief Vijay Kumar said.

An unnamed official also told Reuters that security forces had set up barbed wire and barricades on roads leading to Geelani’s house in the city after the family announced his death.

Scores of armored vehicles and trucks patrolled main roads in the area. Police appealed for people not to go out on the streets.

Geelani, the most senior independence leader in Kashmir, died on Wednesday night in Srinagar at the age of 91. He had been under house arrest for most of the last 12 years after leading several anti-India protests.

According to a family member, the elderly politician, who had been ailing for years, developed chest pain and chest congestion on Wednesday afternoon and died late at night at his residence.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed grief over Geelani’s passing in a post on his Twitter account, saying the nation would observe a day of mourning.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947, with both countries claiming the region in full. The Indian side of the region has been the scene of constant clashes between government forces and armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan.

India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the restive frontier to launch attacks. Pakistan strongly rejects the accusation.

India and Pakistan have fought four wars since their partition in 1947, three of them over Kashmir.

In August 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government announced it was removing Kashmir’s semi-autonomy. New Delhi then launched a massive security operation and communications blackout that lasted for months, arresting thousands of people and deploying thousands of extra troops to the disputed territory.

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