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Kashmir on lockdown for Burhan Wani death anniversary

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 08/07/2017
Thousands of security forces have been deployed to Kashmir ahead of the anniversary [EPA] © Provided by Al Jazeera Thousands of security forces have been deployed to Kashmir ahead of the anniversary [EPA]

India has imposed a widespread curfew, cut off all internet services and deployed thousands of troops in Kashmir as the Himalayan region gets ready to mark the anniversary of a popular rebel leader's death.

Residents of Indian-administered Kashmir said the restrictions on movement were some of the strictest they had seen, with some villagers told they would be shot if they left their homes on Saturday.

The disputed region has seen an explosion of protests against Indian rule since government forces shot and killed Burhan Wani a year ago.

The death of the 23-year-old, who had built up a big following on social media, sparked an outpouring of  grief and anger  that spilled into the streets and led to months of clashes with security forces.

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Nearly 100 people died in the months that followed and many more sustained serious eye injuries from the pellet guns used by government forces to quell the protests.

"Burhan made a place in our hearts as a hero," Kashmiri student Umair Farooq told Al Jazeera ahead of the anniversary. "Many young Kashmiris joined the rebellion after his death. He is still alive in our hearts."

'Fighting for their future'

Separatist leaders, most of whom have been either confined to their homes or jailed, have called for a week of protests from Saturday to mark Wani's death.

Muzaffar Wani, Burhan’s father, told Al Jazeera that the protest movement in the region cannot be suppressed by the authorities.

"The more they try to suppress us, the more we will rise up. Everyone here is fighting for their future," he said.

"Given the kind of suppression we are facing, people think it is better to sacrifice themselves, rather than permitting humiliation of their mothers, brothers and sisters."

As the anniversary approached, thousands of soldiers spread out across the Kashmir Valley, one of the most heavily militarised places on earth.

All roads leading to Wani's home town of Tral in south Kashmir were blocked and authorities seized thousands of motorbikes to prevent people from travelling between villages in the area.

Both mobile and broadband internet services have been suspended across the Valley since Thursday night on police orders.

Sixty years of division

Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, has a long history of conflict.

The mountainous region is home to dozens of armed groups fighting for independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.

However, since Wani's death, civilians have played an increasingly active role in the rebellion against Indian rule.

In parts of south Kashmir, the epicenter of protests, villagers began intervening in raids on suspects, throwing stones at government forces to create a distraction and give the rebels a chance to flee.

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