Amid lockdown, India's Modi assures Kashmir situation will normalise in four months

Indian police officers stand at the site of a grenade attack in Srinagar on Oct 12, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday (Oct 13) said it would take four months for Jammu and Kashmir to return to normal after his government stripped the state of its special status in August and imposed harsh restrictions.

At a rally in the western state of Maharashtra, Mr Modi said that his government had taken necessary steps to maintain security in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state that is also claimed by neighbouring Pakistan.

Alongside the withdrawal on Aug 5 of constitutional provisions that gave Jammu and Kashmir more autonomy than any other Indian state, Mr Modi's government flooded the region with additional troops, and imposed curfew-like restrictions to keep a lid on protests.

Although many curbs, including those on movement have been eased, mobile telephone and Internet connections in the Kashmir valley, home to around seven million people, remain cut off.

Some mobile phone connections are set to be restored on Monday, the government said on Saturday.

"I assure you that it won't take more than four months to normalise the abnormal situation that has persisted there for 40 years," Mr Modi said at the rally, speaking in Hindi.

"Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh aren't just a piece of land for us," Mr Modi said, referring to the remote Buddhist enclave that borders China.

New Delhi insists that its move in August was essential to integrate Kashmir fully into India and bring development to the Himalayan region, but there is anger and discontent among many locals over the decision.

Despite the curbs, Kashmiris have come out on to the streets, and many shops and other commercial establishments in the Kashmir valley have remained mostly shuttered in protests against the withdrawal of the special status.

India has long accused Pakistan of fuelling an armed insurgency in Kashmir, a charge that Islamabad denies.

Last week, the Jammu and Kashmir state government published full-page advertisements in local newspapers asking people to resume normal life, including reopening businesses and sending children to schools.

"Closed shops, no public transport?" the advertisements said, "Who benefits?"

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