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India’s prime minister visits Kashmir amid protest strike

Pakistani students burn a portrait of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an anti-India demonstration and in support of Kashmir, a region disputed between India and Pakistan, in Lahore on January 26, 2019. (AFP)
India's prime minster is in disputed Kashmir for a daylong visit Sunday to review development work as separatists fighting Indian rule called for a shutdown in the Himalayan region.

Shops and businesses were shut while thousands of armed government forces and commandos in flak jackets spread out across Kashmir and closed off roads with coiled razor wire and iron barricades to prevent protests and rebel attacks during the visit of Narendra Modi.

Traffic was sparse, with buses staying off the roads and few cars venturing out in Srinagar, the main city and the center of urban dissent against Indian rule, where Modi is expected later Sunday. He will also address a public rally in a Hindu-dominated area in Jammu.

Authorities detained dozens of activists overnight and put separatist leaders under house arrest to stop them from staging any protest in Srinagar. They also shut internet on mobile phones and suspended train services in the Kashmir Valley, a common tactic to make organizing protests difficult and discourage dissemination of protest videos.

Modi arrived in the remote mountainous Ladakh region bordering China and Pakistan on Sunday morning, where he inaugurated a university.

Three Kashmiri leaders, known as the Joint Resistance Leadership, called for the strike to protest Modi's visit.

"A person who in his pursuit to crush Kashmiri resistance ordered killings and damaging properties, hurting Kashmiri economy and other oppressive measures deserves only a protest from those he has oppressed," the leaders said in a statement.

India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-controlled Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which in recent years has seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.