Top Iranian cleric warns India against mistreating Muslims in Kashmir

A senior Iranian cleric has condemned the Indian government’s recent decision to strip Indian-controlled Kashmir region of its special constitutional status as an “obnoxious” move, warning Indian authorities against the use of excessive force against Muslims there.

“We urge the Indian government to refrain from harsh treatment of Muslims as it will neither be in its interest nor that of the region,” Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani said in an address to worshipers at weekly Friday prayers in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

On Monday, a presidential decree revoked Article 370 of India’s constitution, which guaranteed special rights to the Muslim-majority Kashmir region, including the right to its own constitution and autonomy to make laws on all matters, except defense, communications and foreign affairs.

India dispatched thousands of additional troops to the disputed Himalayan region in the wake of the move, declaring a strict curfew, shutting down telecommunications and internet, and arresting political leaders as well as pro-independence campaigners.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, in return, censured India’s ‘illegal’ Kashmir move, vowing to fight the decision, including at the UN Security Council.

Khan said the move was in breach of international law, adding that he feared ethnic cleansing by India.

Meanwhile, about 8,000 Pakistani protesters staged a demonstration in Islamabad on Friday to denounce New Delhi’s move to strip India-controlled Kashmir of special constitutional status.

Authorities reportedly deployed about 2,000 police and security forces, and did not allow the protesters to approach the Indian Embassy.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.

India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the frontier. Pakistan strongly rejects the accusation.

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