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AFP
October 16, 2019

India blocks SMS services in held Kashmir after trucker killed

Top Story

AFP
October 16, 2019

HELD SRINAGAR: Text messaging services were blocked in Indian-held Kashmir just hours after being restored when a truck driver was killed by suspected militants and his vehicle set ablaze, authorities said on Tuesday.

Security sources claimed the decision to cut text messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate. Indian authorities had only restored call and text services for mobile phones on Monday, following a 72-day blackout in the restive northern territory imposed after New Delhi scrapped the disputed region’s semi-autonomous status.

The seven million-plus people of the occupied Kashmir Valley—the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule—are still cut off from the internet, however. Authorities said SMS services were cut again on Monday night following the attack on the driver of a truck carrying apples in Shopian. Residents said two masked gunmen told the driver to use his truck to block the road, but it skidded and got stuck. “The gunmen then fired at the truck and set it on fire,” a witness told AFP. Apples are a sensitive issue in occupied Kashmir, which exports vast quantities of the fruit to markets across India. Many orchard owners say they are refusing to harvest this year to protest against the Indian government’s move to scrap occupied Kashmir’s autonomy.

Also on Tuesday, police arrested 13 women activists in Srinagar after they staged a protest calling for civil liberties and the release of detainees. The women, wearing black armbands, were arrested for “breaching the peace” and for a contravening a ban in place since early August on public gatherings of more than four people, police said.

They included the sister and daughter of former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, one of several hundred local politicians, lawyers and others in custody since early August, mostly without charge.

Abdullah, 81, was formally arrested in mid-September under the highly contentious Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows someone to be held for up to two years without charge, and which has been used widely in occupied Kashmir in recent years.

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