Three separatist leaders from the Joint Resistance Leadership in Kashmir have called for a regional strike in protest at the Indian prime minister's visit on Sunday.
Narendra Modi's visit is the first since the BJP pulled out of the coalition government in Kashmir. Announcing new infrastructure projects, Modi warned he would "break the back" of terrorism in the area.
“I want to Kashmir’s and the entire nation that this terrorism will be forcibly dealt with. Every terrorist will be sternly dealt with. By conducting a surgical strike on Pakistan we showed our clear intentions to the world. We will break the back of the terrorism in Kashmir," Modi said.
Separatists in Kashmir have been fighting for independence since 1989. The region is a disputed territory with Pakistan and India both claiming Kashmir in its entirety and separatists calling for independence.
Dozens of activists were arrested and separatists leaders were placed under house arrest ahead of Modi's visit to prevent them from staging a protest, the Herald Online reported. Internet access on mobile phones and train services in the Kashmir valley were also suspended in an effort to discourage the spread of protest videos and attendance.
Close to 70,000 people have taken part in recent uprising against the Indian security forces and the subsequent military crackdown on the region.
Responding to Modi's comments, the Joint Resistance Leadership said, "a person who in his pursuit to crush Kashmiri resistance ordered killings and damaging properties, hurting Kashmiri economy and other oppressive measures deserves only a protest from those he has oppressed."
Delivering his speech in the Hindu dominated area of Jammu meanwhile, Modi drew upon the image of “Mother India” and spoke of the persecution faced “in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh” by people who were once part of India. Whilst stating that India will stand with them, some speculate that this nationalist appeal is a bid to win over support for the upcoming elections.