Lockdown in Srinagar Aug 15
Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard on a flyover during lockdown in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. Image Credit: AP

NEW DELHI: India’s top court said on Monday the federal government should restore normal life in Kashmir as soon as possible, as a partial shutdown of the disputed region entered its 42nd day.

India stripped its portion of Kashmir of autonomy and statehood on August 5, shutting off phone networks and imposing curfew-like restrictions in some areas to dampen discontent.

Some of those curbs have been relaxed, but mobile communications in the Kashmir valley are largely still blocked, and more than a thousand people are likely to still be detained, according to official data.

A Kashmiri child looks on from behind a barbed wire cordon as security personnel patrol along a street during a curfew in Srinagar yesterday. Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi and defended a 50-day lockdown on the region. Image Credit: AFP

“We direct Jammu and Kashmir to make the very best endeavour to make sure normal life returns,” India’s Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said on Monday, after a panel of three judges heard several petitions relating to Kashmir.

The court had previously said authorities there needed more time to restore order in Kashmir.

One of the Supreme Court judges, Sharad Arvind Bobde, said the situation in Kashmir, where thousands have died since an armed rebellion against Indian rule began three decades ago, as “a terrible state of affairs”.

A written submission by the government said restrictions were still required in order to maintain law and order, and that they had prevented widespread casualties seen in previous periods of unrest.

Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard during a security lockdown in Srinagar, Indian administered Kashmir, Wednesday, August 14, 2019. India has maintained an unprecedented security lockdown to try to stave off a violent reaction to Kashmir's downgraded status. Protests and clashes have occurred daily, though the curfew and communications blackout have meant the reaction is largely subdued. Image Credit: PTI

“Not a single life has been lost since the abrogation of Article 370,” said Tushar Mehta, India’s Solicitor General appearing on behalf of the government, referring to the action of India’s constitution granting autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir state.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre on MDMK General Secretary Vaiko’s habeas corpus petition seeking the release of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah from detention.

Most political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, including Abdullah, have been under detention since August 5.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the Centre as well as the Jammu and Kashmir administration to file their responses on Vaiko’s plea and listed the matter for further hearing on September 30.

However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the plea saying that Vaiko does not have a locus standi in the matter as he is not a relative of Abdullah.

Vaiko’s counsel told the court that there is no information about Abdullah and the provisions in which he has been detained.

“We don’t know if the constitutional provisions were followed or not,” Vaiko’s counsel said.

Buses are seen parked at a closed school area during restrictions in Srinagar, Kashmir. Image Credit: Reuters

The court asked Mehta whether constitutional provisions were followed or not in the case. He replied that he would have to take instructions on this regard.

Vaiko, a Rajya Sabha member of Parliament, has filed a plea asking the top court to allow Abdullah to attend a conference in Chennai. The conference was organised by Vaiko on September 15. Mehta said the date of the event had already passed.

Vaiko told the court that for several years he has been organising a conference in Chennai on the occasion of the birth anniversary of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Thiru. C.N. Annadurai.

This year, he had invited Abdullah to grace the occasion and he had agreed to attend it. Vaiko said that Abdullah had also attended previous editions of the Conference.