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Curfew in Kashmir relaxed for Friday prayers  

SRINAGAR: The Indian government has relaxed the crippling curfew in the Indian-occupied Kashmir for Jumma prayers.

Authorities in the disputed region are bracing for protest against India’s move to revoke the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir in its constitution, the most far-reaching political move on the disputed region in nearly seven decades.

India revoked the status through issuing a presidential decree on Monday. In the lead-up to the move, India sent thousands of additional troops to the disputed region, imposing a crippling curfew, shutting down telecommunications and internet, and arresting political leaders.

The move has worsened the already-heightened tensions with neighbouring Pakistan, which said it would downgrade its diplomatic relations with India.

Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full but rule it in part. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory.

Authorities in Pakistan and Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir are bracing for protests on Friday.

In Islamabad, a protest is scheduled outside the Indian embassy. “Organisers of one protest have threatened to march to the Indian High Commission which is located in Islamabad’s red zone,” he said.

Demonstrations against India’s move in Kashmir have been taking place across the world.

Thousands of villagers living along the heavily militarised Line of Control (LoC) dividing Pakistani and Indian-administered Kashmir have migrated to safer places in fear of artillery fire exchanges across the border.

“There is fear in the area and residents are preparing to leave their homes if a cross-border exchange of fire takes place. The LoC is just three kilometres from where we are,” Muhammad Mukhtar, a 38-year-old vet said.

The strict curfew in Kashmir that has entered a fifth day will be eased for Friday prayers, the police chief said.

“People will be allowed to go to the area-specific mosques for the prayers in most parts of the Srinagar city,” the region’s police chief, Dilbagh Singh, told a news agency s.

The relaxing of the curfew was temporary but a precise timeframe was not given.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is visiting China as part of efforts to pressure India to reverse its decision revoking the special status of the disputed region of Kashmir.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi will meet with Chinese leaders on Friday. Before leaving for Beijing, Qureshi said he will apprise Islamabad’s “trusted friend” about the situation.

Pakistan says it is considering a proposal to approach the International Court of Justice over India’s action.

Silence cloaks the centre of Srinagar on Friday, its once-teeming streets blocked with spools of concertina wire. Every road is sealed off. The population has been forced indoors while thousands of Indian soldiers in camouflage are on patrol, carrying guns at their waists.

Friday marks the fourth day since the main city in Indian-administered Kashmir is under siege.