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India on guard in Kashmir ahead of anniversary of lost autonomy

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Indian soldiers patrolled streets and kept watch from the rooftops in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on the eve of the first anniversary of the Muslim majority region’s loss of autonomy.

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Authorities had ordered a curfew in Srinagar, citing intelligence about potential violent protests. But late on Tuesday, the city administration said it was lifting the curfew because there had not been any major incidents during the day.

On Aug. 5, 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government took away Jammu & Kashmir state’s special privileges, provoking anger in the region and in neighbouring Pakistan.

It also took away Jammu & Kashmir’s status as a state by creating two federally controlled territories, splitting off the thinly populated, Buddhist-dominated region of Ladakh.

Jammu & Kashmir had been the only Muslim-majority state in mainly Hindu India.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, and the disputed Himalayan region was again the focus of a flare-up between the two nuclear powers last year.

Police had received information that separatist groups including those supported by Pakistan planned to observe a “Black Day” on Wednesday and there was a risk to life and property, Srinagar’s district magistrate said in a public order.

In Kashmir’s Pulwama, separatist militants fighting Indian rule lobbed grenades at a police patrol, wounding two, police said.

Modi’s government has said its decision last year was necessary to spur economic development and to better integrate the region with the rest of country.

Islamabad and Delhi traded barbs on Tuesday evening after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan unveiled the latest ‘political map of Pakistan’ that included the India-controlled portion of Kashmir labelled ‘India Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir’.

“This political map of Pakistan, which we are unveiling to the world, firstly represents the desires of the Pakistani people, and the principled stance of the people of Kashmir, and rejects the illegal step India took on August 5 last year,” Khan said.

India’s foreign office quickly condemned his comments.

“These ridiculous assertions have neither legal validity nor international credibility,” said a foreign office statement, which accused Pakistan of an obsession with “territorial aggrandisement”.

New Delhi has along accused Pakistan of backing militant groups operating in Kashmir - a charge that Islamabad denies, saying that it only provides moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.

Additional reporting by Umar Farooq and Charlotte Greenfield; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal and Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Gareth Jones and Grant McCool

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