Published:  01:59 AM, 10 August 2019

Thousands flee Kashmir border after Indian fire

Thousands flee Kashmir border after Indian fire Indian Paramilitary soldiers stand guard on a deserted street during curfew in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday. -AP

Thousands of villagers living along the heavily militarized Line of Control dividing Pakistani and Indian-controlled Kashmir have migrated to safer places in fear of artillery fire exchanges between the rivals.
Earlier this month, Pakistan accused Indian of using cluster munitions that killed a 4-year-old boy and a woman.

Authorities say an estimated 20,000 people left their homes in the past week when Indian artillery spread panic in the Neelum Valley.

Pakistan says the use of such ammunition is in violation of the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law.On Friday, a villager Mohammad Khursheed says he was among thousands of people who left their homes in panic after cluster bombs struck the civilian population.

Tensions soared after India this week revoked disputed Kashmir's special status from statehood to a territory.The police chief in Indian-controlled Kashmir say the strict curfew in the Muslim-majority region will be eased for Friday prayers.

The region's police chief, Dilbagh Singh, told The Associated Press, "People will be allowed to go to the area-specific mosques for the prayers in most parts of the Srinagar city."

India-controlled Kashmir has been under an unprecedented security lockdown since Sunday to prevent unrest as India's Hindu nationalist-led government announced it was revoking its special constitutional status and stripping of it of its statehood.

Thousands of people have been forced indoors, shops and even most health clinics remain shuttered. All communications and the internet have been cut off. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said late Thursday the situation in the region would return to normal gradually.Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, although both countries only control parts of it. Rebels have been fighting Indian rule for decades in the portion it administers.

Pakistan's foreign minister is visiting China as part of efforts to pressure India to reverse its decision revoking the special status of the disputed region of Kashmir. Shah Mahmood Qureshi will meet with Chinese leaders Friday.

Before leaving for Beijing, Qureshi said he will apprise Islamabad's "trusted friend" about the situation after New Delhi downgraded its portion of Kashmir from statehood to a territory, limited its decision-making power and eliminated its right to its own constitution.

India-controlled Kashmir has been under an unprecedented security lockdown to prevent unrest as the decisions were announced. The Himalayan region is claimed in full by both Pakistan and India and divided between them.
Pakistan says it is considering a proposal to approach the International Court of Justice over India's action.


--- AP, New Delhi

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