SRINAGAR, India – SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Thousands of people crowded shops, businesses and banks in Indian Kashmir on Sunday after officials lifted a 10-day curfew and separatist leaders called for a daylong break in protests to allow people to stock up on food and other necessities.
Police said the government would re-impose the around-the-clock curfew if the protests resume.
The Indian-controlled region has been wracked by weeks of clashes between rock-throwing Kashmiri protesters who have set official buildings and vehicles ablaze, and paramilitary police using guns and tear gas in an effort to contain the large anti-India crowds.
At least 50 people have died, most of them shot by government forces during protests.
Authorities removed steel barricades and layers of razor wire from roads across the predominantly Muslim region on Sunday to allow people to buy food and other items.
"Sunday has come as a breather, and we're stocking up on essential supplies like medicines and baby food," said Abdul Aziz, a resident of Srinagar, the largest city.
Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, has called for five days of protests this week starting Monday and urged people to stock up on supplies.
The tension in the Himalayan region — divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both — is reminiscent of the late 1980s, when protests against New Delhi's rule sparked an armed conflict. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict.
Meanwhile, both factions of the separatist alliance rejected an Indian government offer of talks, saying they would be futile unless New Delhi formally accepts the region as a disputed territory and repeals laws that give Indian soldiers and officials special powers to suppress dissent.
"I'm willing to resume a quiet dialogue," Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said in India's Parliament on Thursday.
Separatists reject Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and want to form a separate country or merge with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.