Indian Kashmir was hit by its biggest general strike yesterday since losing its semi-autonomous status last year, with local anger brewing over a new measure allowing outsiders to buy land in the disputed territory.
The Himalayan region has been divided and disputed between India and Pakistan for more than 70 years and has seen decades of unrest that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government changed the constitution to bring the territory under direct federal rule last year, sparking protests and a months-long internet blackout.
Shops and businesses stayed shut yesterday and most residents kept at home after a shutdown was called by a coalition of political and religious groups that want self-determination for the region. Extra Indian security forces patrolled the nearly empty streets.
This week New Delhi announced the abolition of laws that meant only the 12 million permanent Indian Kashmir residents could own land there. Even Kashmir groups normally supportive of Indian rule have opposed the changes, which also allow the Indian armed forces to designate strategic zones for building military infrastructure.
Many Kashmiris accuse the government of seeking to water down the local population in India's only Muslim-majority territory.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah said Kashmir had been "put up for sale and left bereft of any basic protections". "The amendments add to the fear of demographic changes. They want to alter the character of this place," said Abdullah, who was among hundreds of political leaders detained for months during last year's protests.
Meanwhile, India has complained to Saudi Arabia over a banknote that shows Kashmir as a separate country.
The foreign ministry in New Delhi said it expressed "serious concern" over a new 20 Riyal note issued to mark Saudi Arabia's presidency of the powerful G20 bloc of countries, which includes India. The world map on the note's background shows it as a separate country, including the part of the territory administered by India.
The ministry said Thursday it had asked Saudi authorities to take "corrective steps". Saudi authorities have yet to publicly respond.