India arrests Kashmiri leaders protesting lack of flood relief


Police arrested Kashmiri trade union and separatist leaders after they called a daylong strike on Monday to protest a lack of help given by the Indian government to victims of the worst flooding seen in the region in more than a century.

The strike was a success despite the arrests, a sign of growing disappointment in Kashmir at relief efforts after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was initially praised for his swift response to the floods that killed more than 300 people and devastated half a million homes.
Shops, schools and businesses were closed in several towns in the troubled region on Monday — the first anniversary since rivers burst their banks.
Buses and taxis were also off the roads.
Police arrested at least six trade union leaders in nightime raids and placed senior separatists including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik under house arrest.
“We detained some of the trade union leaders as a preventive measure to stop them from leading protest marches,” a senior police officer said. “We have also put some of the separatist leaders under house arrest to prevent violence.”
To prevent people gathering on Monday, the police closed off the main shipping district in Srinagar, where a protest planned.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah criticized the government’s response.
“All these people wanted to do was register their dissatisfaction at the absence of any meaningful flood relief,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir state government has asked Modi’s government for aid worth 440 billion Indian rupees ($6.6 billion), but that money is yet to be approved.
The state government estimates the floods caused $16 billion of damage. So far, the central government has spent $750 million to help the flood victims and repair damaged infrastructure, according to the local government.
The misery has added to problems of the administration in a Muslim-majority region where a revolt against Indian rule has simmered for nearly a quarter century.
Paddy farmer Abdul Gani Bhat lives with his family of five in a tin shed after his home was washed away. He says he has not received enough government money to rebuild it.
“The prime minister promised to rehabilitate us during the elections,” Hassan said of the state polls in December. “We need help so we can build a roof over our heads.”
Nirmal Singh, Kashmir’s deputy chief minister and a member of Modi’s ruling party, told reporters that the central government will announce a big aid package soon.
“The government is working out where the money will be spent,” he said. “It will come soon.”


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