India's Supreme Court hears petition to lift some Kashmir restrictions
Court expected to rule in a few days on bid to release detained leaders
Indian authorities need more time to restore order in Kashmir, a Supreme Court justice said Tuesday as a security clampdown entered a ninth day since New Delhi revoked the region's special status, triggering protests.
The court is hearing an activist's petition seeking to lift curbs on communications and movement that have disrupted normal life and essential services in the Himalayan region.
Telephone lines, internet and television networks have been blocked since Aug. 5 when India withdrew Jammu and Kashmir state's right to frame its own laws and allowed non-residents to buy property there.
Restrictions on movement and assembly, including a ban on gatherings of more than four people, were tightly enforced on Tuesday in the region's main city, Srinagar.
Menaka Guruswamy, a lawyer for the petitioner, said the court should move to restore hospital services and open schools.
"That is all I ask," she told the Supreme Court in New Delhi.
Justice Arun Mishra said the government wanted to bring Kashmir back to normal as soon as possible.
"The situation is such that nobody knows what is going on. We should give them time to restore normalcy. Nobody can take one per cent of chance," Mishra said. "Who will be responsible if something really bad happens tomorrow?"
The petition also seeks the release of detained political leaders in Kashmir, among more than 300 people held to prevent widespread protests.
The court is expected to rule on the petition in a few days.
India plans investment conference
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's move on Kashmir threw a tighter grasp on the country's only Muslim-majority region, and drew strong protests from neighbouring Pakistan, which also lays claim to the region.
On Tuesday, Pakistan asked the United Nations Security Council to meet over India's decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir's special status.
"Pakistan will not provoke a conflict. But India should not mistake our restraint for weakness," Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi wrote in a letter to the council, which was seen by Reuters.
"If India chooses to resort again to the use of force, Pakistan will be obliged to respond, in self-defence, with all its capabilities," he wrote, adding that Pakistan requested the meeting "in view of the dangerous implications."
It was not immediately clear how the 15-member council would respond to the request and whether a member of the body would also need to make a formal request. Pakistan said on Saturday it had China's support for the move.
Indian officials say the situation is normalizing and announced plans for a three-day investor summit in Kashmir beginning Oct. 12, to kickstart economic growth.
Navin Kumar Choudhary, Jammu and Kashmir's principal secretary of industry and commerce, said the government would try to drum up investment in tourism, horticulture and film production in Kashmir, which is famous for its alpine scenery and fertile soil.
Modi's government has said the old laws prohibiting people from outside Kashmir from buying property, settling there and taking up government jobs had hindered its development.
Restrictions were lifted in five districts of Jammu on Monday, and relaxed in nine Kashmir districts, the home ministry said. Still, it said there would be heightened security for Pakistan's Independence Day on Wednesday followed by India's the next day and then Muslim Friday prayers.
On Monday, authorities sealed off parts of Srinagar, where hundreds of people shouting anti-India slogans spilled onto the streets following prayers on the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
Rahul Gandhi, a leader of India's opposition Congress Party, said Tuesday he and his colleagues want to visit the state, responding to media reports of an invitation from authorities overseeing Kashmir.
Gandhi tweeted, "but please ensure us the freedom to travel and meet the people, mainstream leaders and our soldiers stationed over there."
India said its decision to revoke Kashmir's special constitutional status and downgrade it from statehood to a territory would free it from separatism.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control for decades. Some 70,000 people have died in clashes between militants and civilian protesters and Indian security forces since 1989. Most Kashmiris want either independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Kashmir is split between India and Pakistan and is claimed by both in its entirety. The nuclear-armed rivals have fought two wars over it. The first ended in 1948 with the region divided and a promise of a UN-sponsored referendum on its future. It has never been held.
India concerned over Twitter posts
India has raised concerns about some Twitter posts on the situation in Kashmir.
Police in Kashmir said they asked Twitter to act against a malicious post from one user. Indian media reported Monday that the government had asked the company to suspend eight accounts accused of spreading false information about Kashmir.
A police officer told NDTV news network that some of the accounts were run by Pakistan's spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
A spokesperson for the publicity wing of Pakistan's military and intelligence services said it had no involvement in the accounts.
Madiha Shakil Khan, who operates one of the eight Twitter accounts, said she was not formally contacted by Twitter, but one of her tweets about fighting for Kashmir's freedom was blocked in India.
"Entire <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Kashmir?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Kashmir</a> is caged, there will be retaliation."<br><br>"Imagine in 21st century we cannot make calls."<br><br>"Let them bring any number of troops, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Kashmiris?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Kashmiris</a> will be free."<br><br>Men and women in thousands in occupied <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Kashmir?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Kashmir</a> protested against India even under curfew.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StandwithKashmir?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StandwithKashmir</a> <a href="https://t.co/x9WJ2xOXVx">pic.twitter.com/x9WJ2xOXVx</a>—@Red4Kashmir
Khan, whose account @Red4Kashmir has about 700 followers, lives in Islamabad but hails from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
"I am tweeting in solidarity with Kashmiris," Khan, 28, told Reuters by telephone, adding that she had no ties to Pakistan's ISI. "Kashmir is being totally censored. They only want the Indian narrative. Every month they suspend me."
Khan retweeted a message Tuesday from an online supporter: "Nothing better to do than attack Twitter handles. Must be a slow crime day for the Indian police."
India's federal home ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company does not comment on individual accounts for "privacy and security reasons."
With files from The Associated Press