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India Again Tightens Kashmir Curbs After Overnight Clashes

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol near the India Pakistan border fencing at Garkhal in Akhnoor, about 35 kilometers west of Jammu on August 13.
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol near the India Pakistan border fencing at Garkhal in Akhnoor, about 35 kilometers west of Jammu on August 13.

Authorities in Indian-held Kashmir reimposed limits on people's movement on August 18 following a flare-up in violence as officials claimed to be easing their nearly two-week crackdown sparked by a downgrade in the region's autonomy.

The overnight skirmishes between residents and police left dozens injured, according to senior officials and eyewitnesses quoted by Reuters.

New Delhi's August 5 decision to reduce the majority Muslim region's autonomy sparked resentment in Indian-controlled Kashmir and across the border in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, as well as in Islamabad.

It was followed by a security crackdown and news blackout, the interruption of Internet, media, and phone service, and strict limits on movements by the public.

Reuters quoted two senior government officials saying at least two dozen people were taken to hospitals with pellet injuries after violence in the region's biggest city, Srinagar, late on August 17.

One of the officials said people had pelted police with stones in a number of places in Srinagar and that such incidents had intensified in recent days.

Reuters quoted eyewitnesses and officials as saying that Indian troops used tear gas, so-called chili grenades that use chili pepper to produce a pungent, stinging smoke, and pellets to disperse protesters.

While the media clampdown has made reporting from the region difficult, Indian officials had said on August 17 that they were easing restrictions and restoring travel and other services, including telephones, in many places.

Hundreds of local leaders remain in detention in the region, and others have been taken to detention facilities outside of Kashmir.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Two of the three wars between the two nuclear-armed neighbors were fought over the territory.

More than 50,000 people have been killed in the part of Kashmir that India controls in the past three decades, and critics say New Delhi's latest actions will further isolate the region and encourage armed resistance.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi argued that downgrading autonomy in its Kashmir region would help end separatism and encourage its inhabitants' relations with the rest of the country.

But New Delhi deployed 10,000 additional troops -- joining the half a million already there -- fearing a potentially violent response.

In a rare step, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the situation on August 16.

No specific results were announced from the meeting, which was called by China at Pakistan's request.

Based on Reuters reports

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