SRINAGAR, India (AP) — A prominent pro-India Kashmiri politician resigned Thursday from India's Parliament and from his regional party to protest a government crackdown in Kashmir that prevented people from offering Eid prayers for the first time in the troubled region.
Tariq Hameed Karra, a founding member of the People's Democratic Party, said he quit to express his anger over the "brutal policy'" followed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and the acquiescence of his party, a coalition partner.
His decision is a setback for his party in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which has been wracked by massive protests for the past two months following the killing of a popular rebel leader. More than 80 people have been killed and thousands wounded, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotgun pellets to quell the protests.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Most Kashmiris want an end to Indian rule and favor independence or a merger with Pakistan.
With the entire Kashmir Valley under a strict curfew, most people stayed indoors for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha on Tuesday. Usually bustling on the holiday, places of worship and marketplaces were deserted.
"For the first time in history, the people of Kashmir were not allowed to offer Eid prayers. Certain shrines and even the Grand Mosque were locked," Karra told reporters Thursday in Srinagar, the main city in the region.
"Kashmiri blood is being spilled on the walls, lanes and drains of the valley,'" he said.
He accused the Indian government of brutality and insensitivity toward Kashmir.
Separatist leaders have repeatedly urged police officers and politicians during the current unrest "to disengage from the Indian state.'"
Early this month, protesters set fire to the house of Nazir Laway, a local lawmaker in south Kashmir.
The governing People's Democratic Party is now left with two lawmakers in India's Parliament representing the region.
It emerged in the early 2000s as the strongest opponent to the National Conference, a regional rival which is now an opposition party, using pro-separatist views for electoral gains. It first came to power in Kashmir in 2002 and assumed power for a second time in 2015 in coalition with Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party after failing to win enough seats to form a government on its own.
"Though I was all along feeling suffocated" by his party's alliance with Modi's party, "my conscience was shaken during the last two months," Karra said.