Kashmir rebels abducted 11 relatives of police in the troubled region as mounting tensions forced India’s Supreme Court on Friday to put back a landmark hearing on the state’s autonomous rights.
A general strike and partial curfew brought the Muslim-majority region to a standstill for a second day despite the Supreme Court postponing the ruling until at least January.
The 11 family members were abducted from villages across south Kashmir late Thursday in an apparent reprisal operation, according to police speaking on condition of anonymity.
It came after two families of rebel leaders alleged that government forces set fire to their homes during night raids. They also said relatives of known rebel leaders had been detained.
Four police were killed in rebel attacks on Wednesday.
The abductions were condemned by Kashmir politicians. “This is a very worrying reflection of the situation in the valley,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah said on Twitter.
The violence and abductions also added to political pressures surrounding the Supreme Court hearing on whether Indians from outside Kashmir should be allowed to buy land in the region divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947.
The top court put back the hearing after lawyers for the Indian government and Kashmir state called for a postponement until after local elections in October and November, and because of the tensions.
The two-day strike was called to show separatist anger at the attempt to annul a 1954 constitutional provision that prevents anyone from outside Kashmir buying property or getting government jobs in the disputed Himalayan region.
Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government supports ending the special rights, saying they block outside investment in Kashmir, where the economy has become deadlocked by decades of unrest.
Kashmir opposition politicians and even business leaders say the move is part of a bid by the government to overturn the region’s Muslim majority.
Schools, universities, businesses and most offices remained shut Friday as government forces in riot gear patrolled deserted streets. A partial curfew was imposed in the main city, Srinagar.
Rebel groups have been fighting some 500,000 Indian troops based in Kashmir for more more than two decades. Separatist groups want independence or a merger of Kashmir with Pakistan — a move fiercely resisted by successive Indian governments.
Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting, which has intensified again in the past two years.