‘Our hearts are on fire’: Kashmir spends Eid al-Adha in lockdown

Security personnel stand guard on a street in Srinagar. Photograph: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images

Muslims in Indian-administered Kashmir spent the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha in a security lockdown, unable to call their friends and relatives as an unprecedented communications block remained in place for an eighth day.

In Srinagar, Kashmir’s main city, Indian troops reportedly allowed some residents to walk to local mosques alone or in pairs, but areas of the city were almost entirely deserted on what is usually one of the biggest celebrations of the year.

Blocks on landlines, mobile phones, the internet and cable TV, introduced last Monday, continued.

 Security personnel stop men for questioning. Photograph: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images

Authorities said the restrictions were in place to avoid unrest. Last week 10,000 people reportedly took to the streets of Srinagar to protest against Delhi’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status. Government forces reportedly opened fire and used teargas. The Indian ministry of home affairs denied that any protests of more than 20 people took place – though TV footage appeared to show very large crowds chanting: “Go back, go, India, go.”

“Our hearts are on fire,” said Habibullah Bhat, 75, who told Associated Press on Monday that he came to offer prayers despite his ill health. “India has thrown us into the dark ages, but God is on our side and our resistance will win.”

A spokesperson for the Indian home affairs ministry said on Monday that prayers had gone ahead peacefully in local mosques in various parts of the state “without any untoward incident”. Kashmir police also said Eid festival prayers “concluded peacefully in various parts of the [Kashmir] valley”.

India’s foreign ministry shared photographs of people visiting mosques but did not specify where the photographs were taken.

The communication blackout means there is very little independent information about what is happening in Kashmir, where tens of thousands of reinforcement troops have flooded the streets.

Cuts to phone and internet services have forced people to resort to passing paper notes to friends in order to contact relatives. It took three days for one note, sent by a woman working in Delhi, to be hand-delivered to her father in Kashmir. “I am fine, do not worry about me. You take care of yourself,” the note said.

In an office complex in central Srinagar, scores of people queued for hours last week to use one of the few government phones that were made available to the public.

Inside the small room where calls were taking place, a young girl could be heard telling her father, who was in Hyderabad: “I don’t want any gifts, just please come back.” As her mother started to cry, so did others in the queue outside. A police officer told her to stop weeping, and said there were CCTV cameras operating.

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