Kashmir: India toughens crackdown, more separatists detained

  • More than 160 Kashmiri separatists said detained
  • New curbs on movement in parts of Srinagar

SRINAGAR: Indian troops and police have detained more than 160 separatist leaders and activists, mainly from the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), in two successive nights of raids in disputed Kashmir, and placed new curbs on people's movements.

The clampdown in towns and villages follows a suicide car bombing that killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in a military convoy on Feb. 14 claimed by another group, the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Police say they are rounding up separatists to head off trouble ahead of a general election that must be held by May.

Authorities overnight detained 60 more people from the Jamaat-e-Islami, besides more than 100 held the previous night, said a senior police officer who asked not to be identified.

"Since JeI has a wider network across Kashmir and they are mobilising anti-India protests, their arrest could help in curbing such protests ahead of elections," he told Reuters.

The authorities have also been detaining JeM militants, sympathizers and relatives since the attack.

Separatists called for a strike to protest against the detentions and the crackdown. In response, many shops, petrol stations, and businesses closed, with fewer people and vehicles on streets in sensitive areas, except for troop patrols.

In some areas of the main city of Srinagar, the government clamped down on the movement of people and vehicles.

"The restrictions have been imposed as a precautionary measure to avoid any untoward incident," police said in a statement.