SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Indian authorities on Friday shut down the internet in disputed Kashmir and sealed off the hometown of a slain militant leader a day before the anniversary of his killing by the army, which had fuelled further unrest across the Himalayan region.
Burhan Wani, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group best known for appearing on social media in military fatigues to urge young people to join the fight against Indian forces, was killed in southern Kashmir on July 8 last year.
On Friday, police halted people’s movements in his hometown of Tral, in a bid to forestall gatherings and demonstrations, witnesses said.
A security alert has been enforced across the Kashmir Valley, with some preventive arrests made ahead of Saturday’s anniversary, police inspector general Muneer Ahmad Khan said.
“The alert is not only for unlawful assembly of people and rallies but also for militant strikes,” he said.
India blames Pakistan for pushing in militants from its part of Kashmir to carry out attacks, a charge denied by Islamabad.
The South Asian rivals have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Muslim-majority Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.
Late on Thursday, authorities ordered internet service providers to shut down data services in Kashmir, citing the risk of anti-India forces using social media to stir up unrest.
India has been struggling to restore normalcy in Kashmir, deploying thousands more soldiers, after Wani’s killing appeared to breathe new life into the 28-year armed revolt that had ebbed and was drifting, with little international attention.
A Pakistan-based Kashmir militant commander, whom the United States last week added to its list of global terrorists, has called for a strike on Saturday to mark Wani’s killing.
Syed Salahuddin’s United Jihad Council, an umbrella body of anti-India militants based in Pakistan-held Kashmir, has been incensed by the U.S. designation, vowing to continue its struggle to liberate Kashmir.
Witnesses said most shops were closed in Srinagar, the region’s summer capital, with traffic thin ahead of the anniversary. Authorities have restricted the movement of people in the city’s old quarter, which has often erupted in violence.
Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Clarence Fernandez