Modi to make first visit to India-occupied Kashmir since revocation of special status

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to hold a rally in the main city of India-held Kashmir on Thursday, marking his first visit since the region’s semi-autonomy was revoked in 2019. Modi’s government removed the special constitutional status of the Muslim-majority disputed territory, dividing it into two territories under direct rule from New Delhi.

Despite being positively received in other parts of India, the decision sparked outrage among many residents in the heavily militarized region. Ahead of the visit, thousands of armed police and paramilitary forces were deployed, and new checkpoints were established in Srinagar, where Modi is scheduled to address a public gathering.

In a statement on social media platform X, Modi mentioned that various development projects would be introduced during the visit, focusing on enhancing the agro-economy and promoting tourism. The Prime Minister will also inaugurate new infrastructure near the revered Muslim shrine of Hazratbal.

The visit comes before India’s upcoming national elections, the first to take place since the region lost its autonomy. Critics argue that New Delhi’s direct control of India-held Kashmir has led to a significant erosion of civil liberties and press freedom, although the government claims it has brought peace and development to the region.

Security forces are closely monitoring the situation in Srinagar, with patrols on the streets and in motorboats along the river. Many schools in the city are closed for the day, and government employees are encouraged to attend the rally. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah has accused the government of coercing attendees by arranging buses, suggesting that few individuals would willingly participate in the event.

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