A strict curfew keeping residents of Indian-controlled Kashmir in their homes for a fifth day is being eased for Friday prayers, police said.
The Muslim-majority region has been under an unprecedented security lockdown and near-total communications blackout to prevent unrest as India’s Hindu nationalist-led government announced it was revoking Kashmir’s special constitutional status and downgrading its statehood.
The region’s police chief, Dilbagh Singh, said: “People will be allowed to go to the area-specific mosques for the prayers in most parts of the Srinagar city.”
The relaxing of the curfew in Kashmir’s main city is temporary, and a precise timeframe has not been given.
Friday prayers start at 12.37pm local time (8.07am BST) in Srinagar and last for about 20 minutes.
The Press Trust of India news agency said authorities will allow people to offer prayers in small local mosques, but there will be no Friday congregation at the historic Jama Masjid where thousands of Muslim pray every week.
Jama Masjid has been an epicentre of regular anti-India protests after Friday prayers.
Authorities will be keenly watching people’s reactions as they often take to the streets after the prayers for anti-India demonstrations.
This is expected to determine further easing of restrictions with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha to be celebrated on Monday.
In an address to the nation, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi promised Kashmiri people that his government is making “sincere efforts to ensure that the people in the region have no difficulties in celebrating Eid”.
The restrictions on public movement throughout Kashmir have forced people to stay indoors and closed shops and even clinics. All communications and the internet have been cut off.
Mr Modi said late on Thursday the situation in the region would return to normal gradually.
Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan and divided between them.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule for decades and most Kashmiri residents want independence or a merger with Pakistan.
On Friday, Pakistan’s foreign minister was to meet with Chinese leaders in Beijing as part of efforts to pressure India to reverse its decisions on Kashmir.
Before leaving for Beijing, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he will apprise Islamabad’s “trusted friend” about the situation.
Pakistan said it is considering a proposal to approach the International Court of Justice over India’s action.
It also has said it would downgrade diplomatic ties with New Delhi, expel the Indian ambassador and suspend trade and a key train service with India.
An estimated 20,000 people living along the heavily militarised Line of Control in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir have migrated to safer places in the past week due to cross-border firing.
Pakistan said banned cluster munitions were fired in violation of the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law.
- Press Association