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  • Panic in Kashmir after India asks tourists and pilgrims to leave

    India orders students, tourists out of Kashmir for security File Photo India orders students, tourists out of Kashmir for security

    Thousands of Indian students and visitors were fleeing Indian-controlled Kashmir over the weekend after the government ordered tourists and Hindu pilgrims visiting a Himalayan cave shrine “to curtail their stay” in the disputed territory, citing security concerns.

    Tensions flared along the highly militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan as Pakistan accused India of using cluster munitions to target the civilian population, killing two people.

    Officials said that Hundreds of Indian and foreign visitors, including some Hindu pilgrims, on Saturday congregated outside the main terminal at the airport in Srinagar, the region’s main city, seeking seats on flights out. Most were unlikely to get tickets, however, as authorities had yet to arrange additional flights.

    By Friday night, residents in Srinagar and other towns thronged grocery stores and medical shops to stock up on essentials. They lined up at ATMs to take out money and at gas stations to fill up their vehicles.

    However, tensions eased on Saturday, though Kashmiri politicians and the public were eager to know what is to come. Omar Abdullah, a pro-India Kashmiri leader who has criticized the Modi-led government’s muscular approach in Kashmir, said New Delhi should clear the air in Kashmir.

    Ordinary Kashmiris fear the government measures are a prelude to intensifying an ongoing crackdown against anti-India dissenters. Kashmir, a region known for lush green valleys, lakes, meadows and dense forested mountains, has become notorious for security lockdowns and crackdowns.

    On Saturday, Pakistan’s military accused Indian forces of using banned cluster munitions to target the civilian population along the Line of Control in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir, killing a 4-year-old boy and a woman. It said another 11 villagers were critically wounded.

    “This is violation of Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law,” the military said in a statement. “This blatant Indian aggression against all international norms exposes true character of Indian Army and their moral standing.”

    Pakistan urged the international community to take notice.

    The Indian army rejected the Pakistan claim. It said Indian soldiers killed five attackers while foiling an attempt by gunmen from Pakistani to target an Indian post.

    Indian responses are only against military targets and “infiltrating terrorists who are aided by Pakistan army,” another statement by the Indian army said.

    As tension escalated between the two sides, authorities in Pakistan-held Kashmir ordered evacuation of thousands of residents along the frontier. They also asked residents to remain vigilant of “toy bombs” fired by India.

     

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