Srinagar: Kashmir largely shut down Monday to protest at government delays in rebuilding the region hit by devastating floods a year ago, as hundreds of police and troops patrolled the streets. Shops, banks and schools were shuttered in the main city of Srinagar after traders called a 24-hour strike over perceived government inaction in helping businesses and families recover from the floods. The shutdown was held to mark the first anniversary of the floods that swept through the troubled, Himalayan region, killing 300 people and causing an estimated $16 billion worth of damage. Business leaders and Kashmiri separatist leaders were detained in police stations or confined to their homes on Monday to prevent them leading a rally in Srinagar against the state and national governments. “The government of India refused international aid for Kashmir and did almost nothing itself after failing to protect us from the devastation,” Mohammad Yasin Khan, chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance, a coalition of traders’ bodies, told AFP by phone from a police station where he was being held. Security forces locked down Srinagar’s main business hub of Lal Chowk, including with barbed wire barricades, and deployed police and paramilitary forces in riot gear. The University of Kashmir cancelled exams scheduled for Monday as part of the strike, which was also observed in towns across the region. Kashmir is accustomed to strikes and shutdowns called by separatists against Indian rule of the Muslim-majority region. But anger has been mounting over a perceived failure by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government to deliver on rehabilitation promises following the floods. About 300,000 homes and other buildings along with 700,000 hectares (1.73 million acres) of farmland were damaged in the floods, according to a state government assessment. The Modi government says it has given state authorities millions of rupees for relief efforts. Srinagar was hardest hit after the rain-swollen River Jhelum burst its banks, leaving thousands stranded. City resident Bashir Ahmed said he cannot afford to rebuild his home completely after receiving little in government compensation. “I received 75,000 rupees ($1,122) which was just about enough to clear the debris of my destroyed home,” said Ahmed. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both. More than a dozen armed rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 for the region’s independence or its merger with Pakistan.
2015 Kashmir Despatch