Shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir greets PM Narendra Modi on first visit

Jul 04 2014, 15:05 IST
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Shops, businesses and schools are shut in Indian-controlled Kashmir after separatist groups opposed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit. (Photo: AP) Shops, businesses and schools are shut in Indian-controlled Kashmir after separatist groups opposed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit. (Photo: AP)
SummaryNarendra Modi is on his first official visit to disputed Himalayan region and is expected to inaugurate a railway line and a power station, and also review security and development.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was greeted by near-empty streets lined by security personnel on his first official visit to Kashmir on Friday, as separatists enforced a strike to demand political dialogue about the future of the divided region.

Kashmir is split between rivals India and Pakistan. Demonstrators on the Pakistan-controlled side burnt an effigy of Modi and India's tricolour flag on Friday to protest the prime minister's visit.

Schools and shops were shuttered and normally busy roads were free of traffic in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian controlled Kashmir, when Modi arrived to meet army commanders in one of the most world's most militarised regions.

"It is our earnest wish that Mr. Modi and the newly elected NDA government understand the ardent political message we seek to convey through this act," said separatist leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq.

Police erected barricades to stop and search vehicles entering Srinagar ahead of Modi's arrival, and soldiers flanked main roads throughout the Himalayan region that has been racked by insurgency for decades.

Modi has long been associated with a Hindu nationalist organisation that wants to end the semi-autonomous status that Muslim-majority Kashmir nominally enjoys. His government has promised to renew the debate on the sensitive issue.

Modi was later due to inaugurate a hydroelectric dam in the mountains, barely a mile from the Line of Control, the de facto border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have been quarrelling over the region they both claim in full since freedom from British colonial rule in 1947. Hundreds of thousands of troops are stationed along either side of the border, making it a dangerous flashpoint despite a ceasefire that has reduced - but not ended - cross-border firing in recent years.

Many Kashmiris want independence from both India and Pakistan, and separatist politicians and armed militants alike have often fought for that goal or for closer ties with Pakistan.

"We have repeatedly expressed our hope that the Kashmir issue is addressed in its proper perspective as a political and human issue," said Farooq, who heads a coalition of separatists and is seen as close to Pakistan.

On Wednesday night, sporadic fighting broke out in Poonch district along the defacto border, with the Indian army saying they had foiled an infiltration attempt by militants. Militants regularly cross into Kashmir from the Pakistan side of the border to launch attacks.

"Mr Modi will take with him the gift of bodies of Indian soldiers" from

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