Indian Kashmir’s police chief over the weekend came out in support of keeping opposition politicians out of the region, saying the move is intended to avoid “controversial statements.”
Dilbagh Singh, the chief of police in Indian Kashmir, said he supported New Delhi’s decision to keep opposition politicians out of the region, the only Muslim-majority area in the country.
“In an environment that is getting to normalcy, we didn’t want any controversial statement from anyone. That’s why [opposition politicians] were asked to return from the airport itself,” Singh told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency.
His comments came amid a crippling security lockdown and communication blackout imposed by India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) four weeks ago.
The BJP’s crackdown in Kashmir came in advance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s August 5 decision to rescind the region’s autonomy.
India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress (INC), opposes Modi’s move.
On Saturday, Indian authorities reportedly stopped Rahul Gandhi, a former Congress party president who remains a crucial figure in the country, from traveling to New Delhi-held Kashmir.
Gandhi went to the main city in Indian Kashmir, Srinagar, at the behest of the region’s governor, Satya Pal Malik (BJP). However, the authorities stopped him from entering the city at the airport.
“The governor has said I’m invited. He has invited me, so I have come, but you’re saying I can’t go. And [the] government is saying everything is OK, everything is normal. So if everything is normal, why are we not allowed out? It is a bit surprising,” AFP quoted Gandhi as saying in a video released by the Congress party.
Malik accused Gandhi of politicizing his now-revoked invitation to Indian Kashmir in an interview with Asian News International (ANI).
“India’s home affairs ministry refuted a report by India’s News18 television on Sunday that the region was running out of lifesaving medicines, saying supplies were ‘slightly higher than the monthly average,’” AFP noted.
Modi’s August 5 decision essentially brings New Delhi-administered Kashmir under the direct control of the South Asian country’s federal government.
New Delhi has refuted an Indian minister’s assertion that Modi’s move in Kashmir covers the region’s Chinese area. India backtracked the assertion, saying it is not interested in seizing control of the Kashmir areas controlled by Pakistan and China.
Pakistan and China have come out against Modi’s decision over Kashmir.
Nuclear-armed China, its ally Pakistan, and their mutual rival India all have competing claims to Kashmir. Pakistan and India claim Kashmir in its entirety, but the area’s main border divides the region between the two rivals.
Islamabad has ceded control of some of its Kashmir territories to China. India disputes China’s control of lands on its side of the Kashmir border.
On Friday, Indian authorities intensified the weeks-long security lockdown in Kashmir to avert protests.
India has deployed thousands of additional security forces to the region. Authorities have already detained more than 2,300 people, including pro-New Delhi politicians.