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India eases Kashmir restrictions for Friday prayers

Authorities relaxed curbs in India's Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday (August 9) to allow people to take part in Friday prayers amid a five-day lockdown to dampen protests over the withdrawal of the Himalayan region's special status.

Seeking to tighten its grip on the contested region, the Indian government this week withdrew the state’s right to frame its own laws and allowed non-residents to buy property there.

Since Sunday (August 4) mobile networks and internet services have been suspended, at least 300 leaders detained and public gatherings banned, effectively confining residents to their homes to stop protests in the revolt-torn region.

People on Friday flocked to mosques in Srinagar and Jammu to perform the prayers, with some reporting difficulties accessing the sites with some restrictions still in place.

Communication systems were also partly restored in the region on Friday and schools reopened in several areas, yet the markets were still deserted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government also broke up the state into two federal territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, a step regional leaders decried a further humiliation.

However, the people of Ladakh, a Buddhist-dominated region, celebrated the move with folk dances and songs. Community leaders said the change would help preserve Ladakh’s culture, language and social values.

(Production: Lucy Marks)

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